The Other Side: Milwaukee Bucks

Yeah. We win every other game. What? (AP Photo)

The Milwaukee Bucks (18-21) have been moving this season as if they are stuck in a traffic jam. They press the gas. Stop. Switch lanes. Stop. Press the gas, again. Stop. The Bucks have alternated wins and losses in their last 10 games and they arrive at Verizon Center on the heels of a 106-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. That loss came despite Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson combining for 61 points and Andrew Bogut returning from a back injury to score 14 points.

Milwaukee is just 7-15 this season away from the Bradley Center, where Jefferson scored 32 points to lead his team to a 112-104 overtime win over the Washington Wizards on Nov. 5. The Wizards' season-long theme of failing to close out opponents started to blossom that night, as they blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead. Then-coach Eddie Jordan blasted his team after the game, saying that the Wizards failed to play NBA basketball and that he had grown impatient with his veterans.

The Bucks are still adjusting to each other, but they appear to have bought into Scott Skiles' defensive system. The Bucks are holding opponents to just 96.9 points per game, which ranks 13th in the NBA and is an improvement from last season, when they allowed 103.9 points. They also rank 12th in opponent field goal percentage (45.1).

Here is what you should know about the Bucks heading into the tonight's game:

1. The Bucks Might Be Better Than Their Record
Emphasis on might. Last week, ESPN's John Hollinger rated the Bucks as the NBA's fifth-best team in his power rankings. Hollinger's ranking was a serious stretch, but his argument was that the Bucks had played the seventh-toughest schedule at that point and were about to enter a very favorable stretch with considerably more home games remaining. Skiles teams also have a tendency of making strong second-half runs. But after the Bucks went 2-2 last week, Hollinger dropped the Bucks down to 12 this week. Either way, the Bucks would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

2. Jefferson Is Fitting In
Getting traded from New Jersey to Milwaukee was a shock to the system, but Richard Jefferson has provided what the Bucks expected when they acquired him last summer. Jefferson ranks second behind Michael Redd in scoring at 17.5 points per game and is shooting a career-high 39 percent from three-point range. He still has fond memories of New Jersey.

3. Joe Alexander Wants Your Vote
The NBA has tried to spruce up the Slam Dunk contest by letting the fans pick the fourth contestant in the competition. Defending champion Dwight Howard, former champion Nate Robinson and Rudy Gay are in, but fans can pick one of three rookies for the final spot. The choices are Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook, Portland guard Rudy Fernandez and Milwaukee's Joe Alexander. Voting ends on Jan. 14.

The No. 9 pick in last summer's draft, Alexander hasn't played much his rookie season, but anyone who saw him play at West Virginia the past three seasons knows that he is one freakish athlete. Alexander has Maryland roots, having split his childhood between Taiwan, Silver Spring, Md., Hong Kong, Beijing and Mount Airy, Md. He made the Washington Post's honorable mention all-Met team in 2004. You can read about his incredible journey here, learn about his dunk aspirations here, and watch his campaign pitch below:

By Michael Lee |  January 12, 2009; 3:54 PM ET
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The NBA made a mistake not including McGee on that list. The guy's got some freakish hops to go with his 7' body and 7'6" wingspan.

He gets up higher then any 7' guy I've seen...

Posted by: flohrtv | January 12, 2009 4:13 PM

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