Erik Thorne

OnBucksBasketball - Week 17

After the All-Star break in New Orleans, the Bucks were able to stay at home for the week with three games of increasing difficulty. In their last matchup against Orlando a short time ago, Milwaukee had to play from behind but fought back to make the game close at the end. Once again, the Bucks had to scrap and claw their way to get into a position where they could win in the final minutes. When the game was on the line, the two rookies Giannis Adetokounmpo and Nate Wolters took over and earned the victory against the Magic. Wolters found himself open at the top of the key with 30 seconds left and without hesitation buried a three-point basket to put the home team up two points. Just after the make, Adetokounmpo pressured Magic guard Aaron Afflalo into a turnover and the Bucks would finally notch their 10th win of the season.

Two nights later, the Nuggets rolled into town while on a five game losing streak. As has been the case in nearly all of the Bucks losses, Milwaukee was simply unable to keep tabs on the freakish athlete Kenneth Faried in the post. At times, it looked like nobody on the Bucks wanted to guard the brash and physical Faried – who compiled 26 points on mostly dunks. One shining moment in this contest was the return of guard OJ Mayo who had not played for nearly a month with a combination of the flu, food poisoning and poor conditioning.  Mayo finished the game with 11 points of 5-8 shooting in 30 minutes and said he was happy to get back on the floor. The Bucks may have lost 101-90, but it was good to get an important piece back into the rotation of the team.

The week rounded out with a much buzzed about matchup against the title-contending Pacers on what was dubbed “Y2K night” at the Bradley Center. Fixtures of the year 2000, including Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson and Coolio were in attendance and made the entire scene a lot of fun for Bucks fans enduring this trying season. Milwaukee was complimented by the recent player additions of Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien as a result of the dealing of Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal to the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bucks played against Indiana with their greatest effort of the year against the perennial Central Division champions. Brandon Knight would lead the way for Milwaukee as he scored 30 points against a difficult matchup with all-pro shooting guard Paul George. However, it was Adrien’s ability and desire to match the physicality of the Pacers big men that lit a spark in the Bucks. After being down 22 points midway through the contest, the home team found a way to cut the deficit down to four but Indiana continually found an answer for each positive play by Milwaukee. Although the Bucks lost 110-100, this may have been one of their best efforts of the year against a team that could very well win the championship in 2014.

In the NBA, one of the most telling signs of a coach’s ability to lead is to pay attention to hustle. For much of this season, Larry Drew has not been able to get his players to go to war for him. However, with the recent addition by subtraction of Gary Neal, it seems like the Bucks really have a found a desire to fight for each other. Another reason may be the dramatically increased roles of Wolters and Adetokounmpo. The two rookies display a determination to show their skills and give maximum effort every time they hit the floor because they know that nothing is guaranteed at this level of basketball. The “live and die for today” attitude has rubbed off on their fellow Bucks teammates and it has shown in recent weeks. These last 27 games will be very telling as to what this team is becoming and will display the type of energetic team that Milwaukee very well could be in the future.

BUCK OF THE WEEK! Nate Wolters 27 points, 13 rebounds 13 assists

10 wins/45 losses