Bucks hope for smoother second half
FEB 15, 2013 12:37p ET
But then again, all NBA teams do. The All-Star Game used to mean the halfway point in the season, but the break comes 51 games into the 82-game season this year.
Pouring all they had into Wednesday's win over Philadelphia, the Bucks are savoring the four days off from basketball activity to regroup after dropping six of their last eight games.
"I think we need to recharge a bit," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "Hopefully we can get that done over the All-Star Break."
The schedule is daunting from here on out. Not only does the competition get stronger, but time off and on the practice court becomes few and far between.
Starting with a home-and-home, back-to-back next Tuesday and Wednesday against Brooklyn, the Bucks play five games in a week's time to close out February. Then comes the crazy stretch of games in March.
Milwaukee plays 16 games in March, with half coming against playoff teams. Included is the second West Coast trip of the year, highlighted by stops in Los Angeles against the Clippers and Oakland to play the Warriors.
In the first 41 days after the All-Star break, the Bucks will play 26 games.
"We know how it is (going to be) coming back," Bucks center Samuel Dalembert said. "Teams are going hard. They want to make the playoffs, doing an extra push. We wanted to be able to get that win (Wednesday) and boost up our confidence. And coming back, continue where we left off."
The first half of the season was a roller coaster full of crazy twists and turns. Each time the Bucks put together a solid stretch of basketball and got people believing the team could be good enough to stick around in the playoffs, they'd follow immediately with head-scratching performances leading to questions whether this was even a playoff team.
How many teams have changed head coaches, had two four-game losing streaks and still found themselves comfortably in the playoff hunt at the break? It doesn't happen often.
So what do the Bucks have to do better in the final 31 games of the season?
It starts with energy and effort. When Milwaukee has brought both for extended periods of time, it's been tough to beat. After Boylan took over as head coach in early January, the Bucks were playing hard with an improved attitude and that eventually led to them to eight wins in 11 games.
During their recent skid, Boylan and the players have admitted there's been a big slippage of energy and have been puzzled as to why it's happened. Part of the problem has been Milwaukee's inability to its tempo. The Bucks thrive in a fast-paced, transition game. When they get easy points, their shooting struggles in the halfcourt offense aren't as exposed.
The Bucks haven't been able to run because their defense has struggled to get stops, and when Milwaukee has forced misses, it has given up too many offensive rebounds and second-chance points. It's hard to get out and run when you're taking the ball out of the basket on every possession. The Bucks haven't outrebounded an opponent since Jan. 26.
Four of those games have been played without center Larry Sanders, the NBA's leading shot blocker. If the Bucks are going to make a push to move up in the playoff picture, Sanders' back injury must heal quickly. If there were any questions of how much of an impact Sanders has on Milwaukee's success, they have been soundly answered since he's been out.
Through all the struggles of the past couple of weeks, the Bucks can get right back to where they were before the rough patch with one good week after the break. Two wins over the Nets and a win over Atlanta could put the Milwaukee within two games of the fourth seed in the East.
However, with the trade deadline less than a week away, the Bucks' roster could look drastically different come 2 p.m. on Feb. 21.
But if general manager John Hammond decides to make a few minor tweaks and keeps the core of the roster intact, the Bucks have shown glimpses of an ability to play better than how they closed out the last two weeks before the break.
There's also a chance the last two weeks could linger into the rough next few weeks and the Bucks find themselves fighting for the eight seed, or even out of the playoffs.
It will all be determined by the consistency of their energy and effort.
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