The Weekly Bucks Report is posted early every week on Chuckie Hacks, which just happens to be the best WI sports blog in the business. It is written by a man known only as Two Name, a man who I'm sure is currently camped outside of Kevin Garnett's house, waiting for the right time to pop out and injure him after he sucker punched Andrew Bogut the other night (Two Name has a little "thing" for Bogut).
The Milwaukee Bucks are a top-10 defensive team. Do you need me to write that sentence one more time? Would that make it easier for you to believe?
I know the Bucks have played only 11 games, but there’s something to be said for the significant improvement on the defensive end of the court under Scott Skiles. This is exactly what I was looking for in what has turned out to be an exceptional choice for head coach. This is why I wanted Skiles and not Rick Carlisle when John Hammond was making the most important decision the franchise had faced in more than a decade.
Why was it so important? Pick the wrong guy, and you risk losing a waning fan base for good. Many Milwaukeeans already had given up hope before last year’s joke for a campaign, and it would have turned even worse if not for a solid start to the 2008-2009 season. The Bucks still are dead to a great deal of fans, and that won’t change for a long time – maybe forever. But I feel the team has at least piqued the interest of those teetering on the brink of Bucks fanhood.
Skiles was the right choice for so many reasons, and the most important of those reasons was putting a respectable product on the court every night. Through 11 games, Skiles and the Bucks have done that, and then some. Look no further than an improved defense to explain how the Bucks have gone 5-6 through 11 games, despite having to play six on the road and a grueling five back-to-backs thus far. That’s unheard of in the NBA in such a short period of time.
The Bucks are ninth overall on defense, one notch ABOVE the Boston Celtics and three spots ABOVE Detroit – teams known for their defensive prowess. Milwaukee is “holding” teams to 96 ppg and 45 percent shooting, compared to 104 ppg and 48 percent shooting throughout all of last season.
Again, this is a small sample set, but the defense has greatly improved, allowing the Bucks to claw back into games they seemingly were out of early on. You can’t cut into leads without getting stops, as too many Bucks fans have learned the past few seasons. The Bucks would not have held off Memphis, beaten San Antonio or fought back against Boston without improved defense. Encouraging to say the least.
Hitting the boards: A key cog in any successful defense is limiting second-chance opportunities (or “reloads,” as Johnny Mac says at least 15 times per game), and the Bucks’ rebounding numbers are encouraging as well. Milwaukee is outrebounding the opposition by almost six boards a game. Drafting energy players like Luc Richard and Joe Alexander have helped this cause. Those two guys, especially, LR, have a knack for getting to loose balls and cleaning up the offensive glass. Andrew Bogut had 15 and 17 rebounds against the Grizzlies and Spurs, respectively, and LR grabbed 17 boards against Memphis.
Bogut answers call: Speaking of Bogut … Skiles supposedly called out Bogut before the Memphis game, asking him to be more aggressive. The 7-foot center answered the bell with two double-double-efforts after that discussion and 20 points and nine boards against a solid Boston interior defense. By the way, did anybody think Bogut never should have received his second technical against the Celtics? He made contact with Kevin Garnett while following through after KG hammers him. Garnett throws an open-hand “punch” but gets to stay in the game, while Bogut exits early. I would have liked to see OT with Bogut.
Player of the week: I’ll give it to Bogut. He looked more like himself after Skiles questioned his aggressiveness. He is setting the tone on the glass.
This week: Tough road trip has the Bucks heading to Denver and Utah this week. New York then comes to town before Milwaukee heads to Charlotte Saturday. Bucks play six of their next eight on the road. Ouch! Bucks will go 2-2 this week.