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Bucks’ downward spiral continues as Cavaliers romp

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McClatchy Tribune
March 5, 2009
— The Milwaukee Bucks have dipped as low as six games under the .500 mark only twice this season.

The first time was in early December after they had dropped three straight games on a Western trip. A loss to Golden State concluded that trip and left Milwaukee with a 9-15 record.


The other occasion?


Now.


The Bucks’ record fell to 29-35 Wednesday night after a 91-73 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. While there is no shame in losing to the Cavaliers on their home court—they are now 27-1 at home and 48-12 overall—the Bucks need to be concerned about their overall situation because it was their sixth loss in the last eight games.


Is there any sense of urgency to take a stand, reverse their fortunes and maybe string some victories together before things start getting out of hand?


“There is for me,” coach Scott Skiles said without hesitation.


The offensively challenged Bucks struggled against one of the premier defenses in the league, but they also did not take advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves. The Bucks shot 37.3 percent, scored a season-low point total and turned the ball over 18 times leading to 27 Cleveland points.


“They’re great defensively,” said Skiles. “I don’t want to sell them short, but we missed a lot of open shots in the first half. The thing that we couldn’t overcome was our turnovers. We were very sloppy with the ball and when they steal balls they score. They don’t steal it and go down and set it up. They use their speed and go down and dunk and score. They took advantage of us in that area.”


Forward Richard Jefferson was the only one of the Bucks who could get anything going offensively as he made 10 of 20 shots and scored 29 points. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute added 12 points and Ramon Sessions 10.


Sessions made four of 11 shots, and Charlie Villanueva made four of 12 shots and scored nine points. Off the bench, Charlie Bell made one of five shots and Luke Ridnour missed all seven of his shots.


LeBron James scored 23 points to lead the Cavaliers, who clinched a playoff spot with the victory.


“I thought tonight was a good defensive effort,” said Cleveland coach Mike Brown. “We had some good defensive possessions and to contest the way we did, especially getting to their three-point shooters the way we did, was fun to see.”


There were a couple parts of the game that were particularly damaging to the Bucks.


With James on the bench, the Bucks made 1 of 15 shots to start the second quarter. They recovered to make their last four shots and were within nine at halftime. But they definitely didn’t take advantage of James’ 6-minute hiatus.


“We felt like we were in there (at halftime),” said Skiles. “But you also have to factor that LeBron spent a good portion of that time on the bench. It’s good that we were still in the game, but you’d like to do some damage when he’s out. That’s the part of the game where I thought we had opportunities. We missed a number of jump shots that you need to make to have a chance against this type of team.”


The Bucks then opened the second half with two turnovers and quickly found themselves behind by 14.


“That’s been an issue with us,” said Skiles. “We have not been a high turnover team in the past 2½ months but to start a quarter, to start a half, we’re just kind of casual. Good teams take advantage of that. They take the ball from you and make you pay. You’re not going to come from behind too many times against this team and steal a win.”


Cleveland put the Bucks away by scoring 15 straight points to take a 91-68 lead with 2 minutes 40 seconds left.



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