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The Other Side: Milwaukee Bucks


I'd be out there if I could. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Where have we seen this before? A team loses its all-star guard to a knee injury, then its steady but unappreciated center goes down shortly thereafter and the season sinks like a cement-filled Spalding in the river. The Washington Wizards know what the loss of Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood has meant to their season, so when the Milwaukee Bucks lost Michael Redd to a torn ACL and MCL, then center Andrew Bogut to a back injury, it was understandable that the Bucks would, um, wait, um ... continue to hold on to the eighth spot? Huh?

The Bucks have been without Redd since he was injured against Sacramento on Jan. 24, and Bogut has only played six games in 2009, and none this month. Bogut helped the Bucks win its final two games in January, but went back on the shelf. Redd and Bogut have missed 27 and 25 games, respectively, this season but Milwaukee has already won 28 games -- two more than last season -- and thanks to being in the lousy portion of the Eastern Conference, it has a half-game lead for the final playoff spot over New Jersey.

The Bucks have gone just 4-6 in February, but they have recorded impressive wins against Western Conference playoff teams Houston and Denver. They almost defeated the New Orleans Hornets on Friday, coming back a 17-point deficit with four minutes remaining before losing, 95-94, when Tyson Chandler tipped in a David West shot with 3.3 seconds remaining. Milwaukee is looking to sweep the Washington Wizards this season, after winning the previous two meetings by a combined 14 points.

Here is what you should know about the Bucks as they prepare to host the Washington Wizards tonight at Bradley Center:

1. Charlie Villanueva Is Making That Contract Push
Charlie Villanueva, a 6-foot-11 enigma for most of his career, has kept the Bucks' playoff hopes alive despite its injuries. The Toronto Raptors selected Villanueva ninth overall in 2005 and was traded to Milwaukee for T.J. Ford after one season, then he lost his starting job to Yi Jianlian last season. He appeared to be a poor fit under Bucks Coach Scott Skiles, given his questionable work ethic and defensive indifference, but since becoming a starter 20 games ago, he has averaged 22.1 points and 7.8 rebounds and recorded seven double-doubles in that stretch. On his NBA.com blog, Villanueva said he was happy that he didn't get traded at the deadline. Villanueva will a restricted free agent this summer, so his promising play couldn't happen at a better time for him.

2. Ramon Sessions Is Making That Contract Push
Ramon Sessions has always made the most of his opportunity to play, but he only gets that opportunity by default. As a rookie last season, he averaged 7.5 assists the final 17 games of the season, including a 24-assist game against the Chicago Bulls. But the Bucks traded for Luke Ridnour and made him the starter. Sessions played well while Michael Redd was initially out with an ankle injury, then returned to the starting lineup when Redd got hurt again, and slid over to point guard when Ridnour was out with a fractured thumb. In 17 starts this season, Sessions is averaging 17.5 points and 7.1 assists (numbers that are slightly similar to the Cleveland Cavaliers all-star guard he replaced in Milwaukee -- Mo Williams (17.6 points, 4.2 assists)). The Bucks face an interesting dilemma this summer when Sessions becomes a restricted free agent.

3. Scott Skiles Deserves Some Props
Scott Skiles has an intense, abrasive style that eventually wears on players, but it leads to some good results early on. He's done it in Phoenix, then Chicago, and now Skiles has the Bucks on a rather surprising run despite injuries to key starters. He doesn't get much mention for coach of the year, but the way he manages his players and consistently makes lemonade out of lemons, has not been ignored in Brew Town. If only things like this didn't happen so often:


By Michael Lee  |  February 28, 2009; 1:49 PM ET
 
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Next: Wizards (14-44) at Milwaukee Bucks (28-33)

Comments

Sessions and Villanueva have indeed impressed everyone. In another interview, Skiles made the point that the duo averages at least 12 points less on the road than at home, and says that's something that happens frequently with young players (not sure if that holds up statistically). Probably the most impressive part is the way Sessions played in place of Mo Williams, who went to Cleveland this season, before sliding over to relieve Luke Ridnour.

Aside from not having any eyebrows, Villanueva has always looked good on the court. But he gets pushed around by stronger players at the 4, so there are some matchup problems.

Intriguing to think what might happen when Ridnour, Redd, and Bogut are fully healthy. Will the team be better, or worse?

With a Skiles squad, you can't predict.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 28, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

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