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Rising From The Ashes
They endured a long losing stretch, which began after rookie Brandon Jennings tweeted to his fans in the locker room after the double overtime win at home against Portland on December 12.
The premature celebration cost Jennings $7,500 after the Bucks evened their record at the time to 11-11. You can say that maybe the “rookie mistake” caught the Bucks off guard the rest of that month because they were 1-7 with the only win at Indiana on Dec. 21.
Three of those seven losses came by a total of five points. The two one-point losses at home against Los Angeles and Sacramento came on last second shots. But all that changed after the New Year.
Milwaukee reeled off three straight wins.
That followed by four out of five road losses on their west coast trip, winning only at Golden State on Jan. 15. The Bucks finished the month of January strong with a 4-2 record, but they were still five games under .500 at 20-25.
After losing Michael Redd to a season-ending injury, Milwaukee had no offensive arsenal on reserve to protect the remaining two of the Big Three (Jennings, Andrew Bogut).
Enter the brain trust of general manager John Hammond. He found some scoring help in out of work veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who was acquired at the tail end of the Bucks’ western trip.
And if that wasn’t enough, Hammond made some moves on the trade deadline day (Feb. 18). He picked up John Salmons from Chicago in a deal with the Bulls for two players and two second round draft picks.
The two proven scorers boosted the offense and rejuvenated Milwaukee’s playoff hopes. The additions of Stackhouse and Salmons helped Milwaukee win 10 out of their last 13 games entering the last game of February at Atlanta on the 28th.
That included winning six games in a row.
The victories moved the Bucks from the 10th to the seventh position in the Eastern Conference playoff race. And along the way, they passed Miami and Charlotte, who are still threats to challenge Milwaukee with a month and a half of NBA basketball left to play.
“We fought our way back,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. “We were seven games down. We fought our way back to .500. In order to get over .500, at some point, you have to get to .500. I know that’s silly but it’s true.”
“Now we’ve gotten there, and the guys are bringing pretty good focus every game.”
According to Bogut, the team raised their confidence level by winning recently but they still must stay focused. “We have to stay grounded because we’re at .500,” Bogut said.
“It’s something we’ve strived for. We’re at .500. We can get better still as a team. We can’t think about teams that are playing two or three games ahead, marking them down and saying, ‘We could be (ahead) at the end of the month.”
“We just need to stay grounded. We can’t get cocky because obviously you guys (media) are going to talking about playoffs. The fans are going to start getting more and more vocal. We just can’t fall into that trap.”
Added Salmons: “We definitely think it’s (playoffs) within reach. We’re just not trying to make the playoffs. We’re trying to move up in the standings. We got the opportunity to do that. Just all stay together, continue to grow.”
“We can only get better. We’ll try to make a push.”
One thing the Bucks can’t do is look over their shoulder.
If they take care of business with a favorable home schedule in March — 10 out of 15 games — and the eight games (four at home, four on road) in April, they will play in the postseason.