Skiles pushes Bucks to play with a sense of desperation
Coach Scott Skiles, though, will take it even one step further.
“We need to play with a sense of desperation,” he said. “We’ve done it a little bit, just not enough.”
There is no time like the present for the Bucks to improve their playoff position. They will continue their six-game home stand—the longest of the season—with games against New York on Tuesday and New Orleans on Friday. The Bucks had held down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference from Feb. 9 until Friday, when they lost in Chicago. The Bucks rebounded from that loss by holding off the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter for a victory Saturday night at the Bradley Center that halted a three-game losing streak.
With Chicago and New Jersey, two of their chief competitors in the playoff race, on the road this week, it’s a golden opportunity for the Bucks to reclaim the eighth spot. The Bucks will not play on the road again until March 25, when they open a four-game trip—their final multi-game trip of the season—at Toronto.
“This (home stand) is big,” said guard Charlie Bell, who scored 16 points off the bench Saturday. “This is going to make or break us. We’ve got four on the road after this so this is a big stretch for us. We’ve got to take care of home. If we do that, we’re going to stay right there and hopefully we can put a little distance between us and some other teams. We have to take care of home court. I know there are tough teams coming in here but I think we can beat anybody at home.”
The Bucks are 19-12 at the Bradley Center this season but only 3-3 since the all-star break.
“It’s important,” forward Richard Jefferson said when asked about the home stand. “But there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. We understand that even though we do play better at home, teams know that and teams are coming in here expecting a good punch from us so we have to make sure we match the other teams’ intensity when they come in here.”
The Bucks will play some formidable opponents on the home stand—Boston, Orlando and Portland come to town next week—and all of them have reasons to want to finish the season strong.
The Knicks still have designs on the eighth spot in the East. The Hornets and Trail Blazers are among the five teams that are jousting for the third through seventh positions in the West and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Boston is battling with Cleveland for the best overall record in the East. Orlando, currently third in the East, is breathing down the necks of the Celtics and Cavaliers to try to improve its playoff position.
The Bucks are 3-0 against New York, 0-1 against New Orleans, Portland and Orlando and 0-2 against Boston.
Because of their road-heavy early schedule, the Bucks have played as many road games as any team in the league all season but this is where the schedule finally balances out for them. They will have time to rest and time to practice, as there will be two days before each of the next five games except for the one day between the game Friday against the Hornets and the one Sunday against Boston.
“We’ve got to take advantage of (the home stand),” guard Luke Ridnour said. “You don’t get this very often during the season. We’ve put ourselves in the situation we’re in, so we have a chance (to make the playoffs) so these home games are big. It seems like we’ve been all over the place all year but just to know you’re going to be home for a couple weeks . . . we don’t have any back-to-backs and we have to take advantage of it.”