The Weekly Bucks Report is written each week for CH by a man known in certain circles as Two Name. Its being posted on CH Monday instead of Tuesday this week, because I'm sure tomorrow we'll be spending a lot of time dissecting the important Bears - Packers game tonight (HA!)
The most brutal portion of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2008-2009 schedule is coming to an end, and the team has put itself in great position after the first two months of the season.
Before the season began, it was clear the Bucks needed to hover around .500 through December. If they could do that while playing an unheard of amount of road games and back-to-backs early on, a playoff spot in the mediocre Eastern Conference was deemed possible. Well, at 13-16 through Sunday, the Bucks are the ninth best team in the East. While playoff positions will shift dramatically over the next couple months, the Bucks are in the mix.
You can find some encouraging signs if you look beyond just wins and losses in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bucks have played 18 road games through Sunday. The only team close to that number is Indiana with 15. All the other teams have played about 12 games on the road thus far. Of those 18 games on the road, Milwaukee has won six.
In my opinion, a team’s ability to win on the road reflects on its coaching and the makeup of its players. With that in mind, only five teams in the East (Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Detroit, New Jersey) have won more road games than the Bucks. All of those teams – with the exception of New Jersey – were expected to contend this year, so Milwaukee is in good company.
Plus, if you look at a team like Chicago, which is ahead of Milwaukee in the standings, you see the Bulls have won only three games on the road. Chicago’s road struggles are just one of the reasons I don’t think they’ll finish ahead of the Bucks.
After getting pounded on the West Coast, the Bucks bounced back this week, winning two of three away from the Bradley Center. Milwaukee beat Miami and New York, with an inexplicable loss to Philadelphia sandwiched in between. Couple that with a blowout win over the Clippers Saturday, and the Bucks have won three of their last four games.
The Bucks host Utah and Detroit this week, and they need to win both of those games. Carlos Boozer is out for the Jazz and Detroit is not the same team with Chauncey Billups, who always killed Milwaukee.
Not so rocky road: The Bucks already have won one less road game than all of last season. I’ve tried my best to forget how bad the Bucks were last year, but seeing stats like that serves as an ugly reminder. Improved coaching and the addition of more experienced players – like Richard Jefferson, a proven winner in New Jersey – has made Milwaukee more confident on the road.
Player of the week: It’s frustrating watching Luke Ridnour shoot as much as he does. I pegged him as more of a pass-first guy, but he does look to shoot – sometimes too often. That being said, he has played well of late, quieting those – including myself – who wanted Ramon Sessions in the starting lineup. In the last three games, Ridnour has averaged 14 points and 5 assists. He has shot an efficient 62 percent from the field over that span.
This week: Bucks need to beat Utah and Detroit to take advantage of some rare home cooking.