Well I think it’s safe to say the Bucks have some work to do if they want to return to the playoffs. This All-Star weekend is a nice time for us fans to regroup and regain enthusiasm in what has been a disappointing season so far.
I could write one of those pieces reviewing the first half of the season, but let’s be honest, one trip down that road was enough. Instead, let’s look to the future.
First things first, Carlos Delfino needs to recover from those third-degree burns suffered at the hands of Carmelo Anthony Wednesday. He was toasted repeatedly for three quarters before Scott Skiles finally put Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on Anthony. I don’t often question Skiles, but there was some game mismanagement there that may have cost the team the game. So for these final 27 games, let’s keep the coaching crisp. The team struggles enough as is, so Skiles needs to bring his A-game every night.
In my opinion that A-game would include more minutes for Larry Sanders and Chris Douglas Roberts, but we shall see.
All right, so the Bucks are 21-34 – not pretty. With 27 games remaining and the sub-par teams fighting for the 8th seed, I think the Bucks will need to win 18 games to have a chance. That’s my magic number. It won’t guarantee it, but it will certainly keep them in the race.
Is 18-9 possible after the break? Possible, but it’s going to be hard. Looking at the schedule though, I only count nine “pretty sure they’re going to lose” games. The Bucks have two games against Chicago, Atlanta and Boston. There are six. Then Orlando, Miami and Oklahoma City. An upset or two in those game would be great, but if not, that means they are going to have to take care of business against the bad teams and fight hard to win against the beatable teams.
The one who could ignite a turnaround is John Salmons. Salmons has been sizzling as of late, putting up double digits in five of the last six games including a season-high 33 against Denver Wednesday. The main problem with the team has been missing open jumpers, but if one guy gets hot, it’s amazing how the rest of a team starts to catch fire.
Remember that time Salmons sparked a 22-8 run to help the Bucks get the sixth seed? Yeah, those were good times. And he is going to need to be at that level to do it again.
There is nothing a team can do about this next key to a playoff run really, but the Bucks need to stay healthy. Injuries have killed this team up to this point, but the Bucks need Ersan Ilyasova and Drew Gooden back out there and then they need to keep them out there.
Speaking of getting healthy, Michael Redd is on his way back too. I don’t see this as a “key” to a successful run to the playoffs, but it could be a run killer if he doesn’t find a comfortable role. I think Redd understands he is no longer the face of the franchise, and he will need to take a lesser role. He is going to need to stop trying to create shots for himself all the time, the Bucks don’t need that anymore. If he has problems adjusting, it could kill any chance for this team to develop an offensive flow.
So there are your three keys: Salmons needs to sizzle, the team needs to avoid further injury and Redd needs to silently slip into a lesser role with the team. Obviously the team needs to start hitting open shots, but those three things will make that happen a lot easier.
The NBA All-Star weekend is my favorite of all the sports and should be good this year. I’m going against the grain and will pick DeMar DeRozan to beat Blake Griffin in the dunk contest … Talks heated up about Melo to the Nets again, but I wouldn’t count on it. I don’t see Melo agreeing to sign a three-year extension with the Nets … Reggie Miller wasn’t even a finalist for the basketball hall of fame. I think Spike Lee sabotaged the whole thing.
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