Milwaukee Bucks have much to build on

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Michael Hunt
Monday, May 3, 2010
— Is it better to have made the playoffs and lost than to have never made the playoffs at all?

How about when a season is vacated by shooting so poorly in the last two games that the ability to hit a prone bear in the backside with a bass fiddle seemed unlikely?

How about when the offense was so out of sorts at the end that Wisconsin basketball, circa 2000, might have seemed entertaining by comparison?

Do you even have to ask?

Sure, the Milwaukee Bucks showed up like a pimple on prom night when national TV was there to capture their denouement against the Atlanta Hawks. They lost going away, 95-74, to the better team, pretty much as you suspected they would in the clincher after they allowed this thing to return to a building where the Hawks seldom lose.

But all things considered, the Bucks were playing May basketball on a Sunday afternoon when 21 other NBA teams were mothballed for the summer.

As a wrap on a 2009-’10 season that began with Washington Generals-level expectations, continued with the loss of a 20-point scorer and then one of the game’s elite big men, taking the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 team to the only Game 7 of the first round was enough.

Way more than enough, actually, because by the end, that’s all the Bucks had and they had no more. As disappointing as the last two games might have been, how can you be disappointed in a team that had long ago switched to its reserve tank and still had a dangerous opponent working overtime?

By the time the Hawks realized their reward for winning the series was a dead-end date with the Orlando Magic, the Bucks had nothing more to give this season.

As for next year and beyond, they will be so much better for the experience, particularly now that the rookie tag has officially been dislodged from Brandon Jennings. It had been for a while, but with the end of one season came the reality that Jennings is only going to take off from here.

“A game like today, they don’t happen as much as people think they do, the seventh game,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “There are a lot of players who never get the chance to play in a Game 7. He has that experience now. I thought he did a nice job today. I thought overall he had a good series.”

Though it may have been an unsightly way to end a series and then a season, the Bucks also can take encouragement from the fact that two other principals for the future, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova, emerged from the statistical nightmare that was Game 7 with their dignities intact.

And as a symbolic gesture, Andrew Bogut accessorized his cast with a uniform on the final day. No way could he have played, but his presence on the bench was a reminder of what is possible in the NBA with a really good center and a really good point guard. By averaging almost 19 points his first time in the playoffs, Jennings did everything but help steal the series.

“As all young players he’s got things he could work on, but the exciting thing for us is he is a willing worker,” Skiles said. “One big takeaway is we were able to play postseason basketball in his rookie year.

“It’s a shame Bogues couldn’t be involved in it. But for Brandon, Mbah a Moute and Ilyasova, three of our young guys, they got their feet wet a little bit.”

Actually, they were in over their heads from about the 5-minute mark in the first quarter on against the Hawks. The mismatches were painful to watch as the shots clanked and the rebounds and the rejections piled up for Atlanta.

It may have ended as scripted, but this was hardly goodbye for the Bucks.

Last updated: 1:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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