Young Bucks eager to avoid road burns
That’s become clear in recent weeks as the young Milwaukee Bucks players have done wonders at the Bradley Center.
Sessions went off for a career-best 44 points in an overtime loss to Detroit earlier this month, as the Bucks worked the pick-and-roll play to perfection. And he had 17 assists in a victory over Indiana before the all-star break.
Then it was Villanueva scorching Denver with a season-high 36 points on Sunday and scoring a critical basket in the final minute of the Bucks’ 120-117 victory. And he had 26 points and 13 rebounds on Friday night against Cleveland, despite missing the final 7 minutes after being ejected for a flagrant foul.
Now Bucks coach Scott Skiles wants to see the duo play at a similar pace on the road.
“Before practice he pulled me and Ramon to the side and showed us our numbers home and away, and they’re totally different,” Villanueva said Tuesday. “I’m going to take it as a challenge.
”I really didn’t even know there was a big difference. I just have to be more aware, concentrate more. Whatever I do at home to get myself ready, I’ve got to do it two times more on the road.“
The Bucks have 23 games remaining in the regular season, including 10 on the road, as they fight to grab a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. And they have two difficult road games against Western Conference teams this week, at Dallas tonight and at New Orleans on Friday night.
The numbers do jump off the stat sheet when comparing home and away effectiveness for the 24-year-old Villanueva and 22-year-old Sessions.
Villanueva is averaging 18.1 points at home and shooting 50.8% from the field, and he is averaging 14.3 and shooting 41.2% on the road. But the big disparity comes with his three-point shooting, with Villanueva shooting 46.8% from beyond the arc at home and 27.8% on the road.
”We need some road games where he’s shooting a good percentage,“ Skiles said. ”He’s certainly capable of doing that. You can’t expect mid-30s (in points) out of him every night or anything. Teams are going to try to take things away from him. It’s another step in his development.“
Sessions has averaged 14.9 points while shooting 52.5% at home, and those numbers are 9.4 and 37.1% on the road. He also has averaged 6.1 assists at home to 3.6 on the road.
”I’m not trying to put an age to it, but guys that are under 25, young guys in the NBA, the road is more difficult,“ Skiles said. ‘’It’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s something as time goes on, guys learn how to conquer a little bit.“
One thing that has developed in the past few weeks is on-court chemistry between Villanueva and Sessions, and among all the Bucks players, to make up for the absence of injured stars Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut.
”I have to score more, get more rebounds, block shots, just do a little bit more,“ Villanueva said.
Initially, Sessions started at shooting guard after Redd sustained his season-ending injury on Jan. 24. But after point guard Luke Ridnour went down temporarily with a fractured right thumb, Sessions returned to his natural point guard spot.
The second-year pro will be matched against veteran Jason Kidd of the Mavericks and all-star Chris Paul of the Hornets on the road trip.
”I didn’t play against him (Paul) last year, so I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge,“ Sessions said. ”He can handle the ball in traffic, out of traffic. He’s a great player, hands down. And Jason Kidd is a guy I’ve watched growing up. You can’t leave out Jason Kidd.“
It’s fair to say the Bucks’ opponents also will be concerned about forward Richard Jefferson, who is averaging a team-leading 24 points over the last seven games, and Villanueva and Sessions.
Villanueva is averaging 23.4 points and Sessions 21.9 over those seven games as the Bucks have exceeded 100 points six times.
”Ramon is a good scorer going to the hole,“ Villanueva said. ‘’He’s being aggressive and going to the paint. If they’re going to stop him, I’m going to pick and pop.“
Sessions quickly returned the compliment.
”He knows how to play off me real well,“ he said of the 6-foot-11 Villanueva. ”He knows how to cut to the basket when I’m down there dribbling. It’s a good vibe we’re getting right now.“