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News » Strong case for defense Stops key to Bucks' success

Strong case for defense Stops key to Bucks' success

Strong case for defense  Stops key to Bucks' success
There are statistics for all occasions in the National Basketball Association but one number speaks volumes about how the Milwaukee Bucks' season has gone so far.

The Bucks have a 14-4 record in games in which the opponents shoot less than 44%.

"If we want to win, there it is," coach Scott Skiles said. "That's what we've got to do. Our defense is much improved but we need it now. We need to understand that. Some days it seems like we do and some days it seems like we don't, which is typical of trying to turn us around. We really need to let that sink in."

What that means is that it was unacceptable to let the Indiana Pacers shoot 51.9% Wednesday night - and 57.1% in the first quarter - in their victory over the Bucks.

Milwaukee's defensive field-goal percentage for the season is 45.6%, which is considerably higher than Skiles' standard for excellence and ranks them 18th in the league.

The Bucks need their defense to be strong now because, without the injured Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, they are searching in so many other areas.

Skiles is searching for any combination of players that will be productive.

That was evident in the fourth quarter of the loss to Minnesota on Monday at the Bradley Center when the Bucks staged a comeback with a guard-heavy lineup that featured Charlie Bell and Luke Ridnour along with Tyronn Lue and then Ramon Sessions.

Skiles was clearly searching in the first-quarter nightmare against Indiana, when he had all five of his starters on the bench 5 minutes into the game.

Apparently that is the way it's going to be for a while.

"We'll do whatever we have to do on a given night," Skiles said. "We're talking to the guys about everybody staying ready. It's possible that we settle into some sort of rotation but it's also possible that we need to be game-dependent on how the game is going and who the opponent is. Is it a game where we feel like we need more defense in a certain spot or do we need more offense in another spot? We've got to stay flexible right now. It's just the way we are."

Without Redd (21.1 points per game) and Bogut (11.8), the Bucks are also searching for ways to score. Against the Pacers, Charlie Villanueva scored 28 points, Richard Jefferson had 19 and Sessions added 16, but the Bucks sometimes bog down in the halfcourt, which is why Skiles is putting a premium on getting out and running and getting some transition baskets.

"When we get stops and rebound the ball, we like to get it out and get up the floor and see what we can get in early offense," Skiles said. "We haven't always made the best judgments during those times but the only way we're going to get better with our judgments is if we keep doing it and then look at tape and all those kinds of things.

"But we don't feel that right now, especially with Mike and Andrew out, that we can afford to just jog the ball down the floor and run a set offense the whole game."

The hope is that when Bogut returns - it could happen tonight at Toronto - that it will help solidify things a bit.

"If he can stay back," Skiles said. "Which is our goal. We're trying to get it to a point where when he comes back that will be the end of it. You can't always control that. But we don't see a purpose in having him play a few games and go back out again. But hopefully when he gets back, maybe that will stabilize us a little bit."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: January 30, 2009


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