Bucks staying the course
“I’m know I’m not ‘Bogues’, I’m Kurt,” said Thomas, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds in Milwaukee’s 108-89 win over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night. “I’m going to do what I do to be successful out there on the floor, and that’s play defense and rebound the ball. We’ve been sharing the ball well with each other and we’ve got to continue to do that.”
Another Bucks veteran, Jerry Stackhouse, added 18 points while John Salmons scored 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting for Milwaukee, which won its third straight and improved to 2-0 without Bogut.
“It’s definitely got to be a team effort on both ends of the court. We’ve just got to step up, step in for Bogues and try and make up for the things that he does well for us,” Salmons said.
Milwaukee remains fifth in the Eastern Conference and can finish no worse than seventh at this point even without Bogut, who is lost for the season after dislocating his right elbow and breaking his hand on Saturday.
Devin Harris scored 18 of his 25 points in the first quarter as New Jersey fell to 11-67, guaranteeing the Nets will finish with at least a share of the worst record in the league.
“Nobody was really making the extra pass. It’s not just one guy. It’s everybody together,” head coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “It was just a tough night for us, everybody struggled.”
Like most of the season.
The Nets had the game tied at half, but Milwaukee (44-34) put the pressure on down the stretch to improve to 10 games over .500.
The Bucks led 82-75 after three and by as many as 20 in the final quarter as New Jersey never threatened and only scored 31 points after halftime on 27 percent shooting.
“We did our thing tonight,” Stackhouse said after reading the stat sheet. “We brought that defensive field goal percentage down.”
Ersan Ilyasova had 15 points and nine rebounds and rookie Brandon Jennings scored 12, but Salmons led the way and has been a major part of Milwaukee’s best record since the franchise went to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001.
Since his acquisition in a trade-deadline deal from Chicago, Milwaukee has won 20 of 26. The normally soft-spoken Salmons also showed some fire, too, drawing a technical foul in the third quarter.
With Yi Jianlian on the free throw line and Brook Lopez on the blocks, Salmons, standing behind the 3-point arc began jawing with Lopez, walking up and bumping into him. An official came in and separated the two.
Salmons was apparently standing up for head coach Scott Skiles, according to Lopez.
“I told (Coach Skiles) ‘I wasn’t talking to you,”’ Lopez said. “Then, Salmons told me to shut up and stop talking and I was confused. It worked out.”
Salmons dismissed the incident as just talk, but the Bucks continue to show they won’t back down now. Thomas patrolled down low the way Bogut used to, and the Bucks will need him to be a major contributor.
While the 7-foot Australian hasn’t been made available to the media since the injury, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. The No. 1 draft pick in 2005 tweeted before his surgery this week “wanna swap arms?” to Jennings since the rookie is a lefty and Bogut hurt his right one.
He’s also mentioned that he’s very bored, can’t play video games because he’d need both hands and that his dogs are giving him strange looks.
What’s left for Bogut to do? Online shopping.
“This injury is going to cost me alot of money,” he joked online while talking about cars and asking about iPads.
Notes: Harris scored 21 points in the fourth quarter against Phoenix on Nov. 30, 2008. ... Harris, who grew up in Milwaukee and went to Wisconsin, had a group of around 50 people cheering him on and he spoke to them briefly pregame. ... Bucks owner and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl made a rare locker room appearance before the game to congratulate the Bucks for making the postseason. ... In an incongruous moment, a group of bagpipe players began practicing down the hall as Skiles spoke to the media before the game about Bogut and the disappointment of his season-ending injury.