Dreaming bigger: Victory impressive, but Bucks not satisfied
AUBURN HILLS, MICH. The Milwaukee Bucks went into the all-star break holding down the No. 8 position in the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Judging by the way they opened the post-break portion of their schedule by holding off a frantic Detroit Pistons rally in the final minutes for a 92-86 victory at the Palace of Auburn Hills, they have every intention of holding on to that spot.
Or, better yet . . . moving on up.
“We’re looking at it, like, ’Hey, why not try to move up?’ ” forward Richard Jefferson said. “Why try and stay in the spot you’re in? Why not try and move up in the playoff hunt and try to get above .500? These are goals that we’ve had all season but because of injuries and some inconsistencies, we haven’t been able to do it. But those are still our final goals.
”We’re a team that—people might not understand—that we’re a lot hungrier than we might look. We’re going to come out whether it’s the last game before the break or the first game after, it doesn’t matter the situation. We’re going to give it our all.“
Coach Scott Skiles said you never knew what to expect from a team on its first game back from the break.
”We had a spirited practice (Monday) and we looked like we were going to hit the ground running, but you never know,“ he said. ”But we did (well). It was a great defensive effort for us.“
Jefferson led the Bucks with 29 points and his 11 first-quarter points led the Bucks to a 12-point lead going into the second period. Jefferson sank 4 three-pointers, including one back-breaking three that gave Milwaukee an 86-82 lead with less than 4 minutes left. He scored seven points in the fourth quarter.
Ramon Sessions played 42 minutes for Milwaukee and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Forward Malik Allen played great off the bench, finishing with a season-high 14 points—including a big jumper that gave Milwaukee an 88-82 lead with 2:34 left—and eight rebounds.
A jumper by Allen opened the fourth quarter and gave Milwaukee a 76-61 lead. But with Antonio McDyess scoring 14 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, Detroit charged back and had Milwaukee’s lead down to one twice in the final 6 minutes but was not able to wrestle the lead away from the Bucks.
The Bucks led, 88-86, with 1:07 left but one free throw by Jefferson and two by Sessions put the Bucks ahead by five with 22.7 seconds to go.
The Bucks had withstood the charge.
”This was big for us,“ Allen said. ”Guys stepped up and made plays. We knew they weren’t going to stay down the entire game. They were going to make a run eventually so we responded really well. They tried to change the tempo by throwing a zone at us at the end. It took us a couple possessions but we got a good handle on it. We have to keep growing as a team and we took a big step that way tonight.“
The victory was the Bucks’ third in a row—they went into the break after victories over Houston and Indiana—which matches their longest winning streak of the season. The victory also provided the Bucks with some payback for an overtime loss to Detroit shortly before the break at the Bradley Center, a game the Bucks thought they should have won.
”This shows the growth of our team,“ Jefferson said. ”We’re doing more than just playing hard. We’re going out there expecting to win. This was a good game for us. We felt like we had a good situation the last time we played them and we just couldn’t capitalize on it. So to come back here and try to get a little revenge on their home court.“