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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

Sun
Hi: 61
Lo: 43
Mon
Hi: 65
Lo: 49
Tue
Hi: 70
Lo: 53
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Ersan Ilyasova has done enough to be named the Most Improved Player in the NBA.
Ersan Ilyasova has done enough to be named the Most Improved Player in the NBA. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

Ilyasova in conversation for Most Improved Player in NBA

It's fan appreciation night tonight at the Bradley Center, and the Milwaukee Bucks – all nine of them in uniform - unfortunately can't give the few fans here anything more than effort.

The game means nothing, and some fans have been saying the season hasn't meant much.

I have to disagree with that sentiment.

While it's true that every fan should expect its professional organizations to have a championship-or-bust mentality heading into each season, it's an unrealistic expectation in the NBA.

That is especially the case in this truncated season where only a handful of teams started the year thinking title. The Bucks, clearly, were not one of them.

The playoffs were a realistic goal, however, and that goal was nearly realized. Nearly. That makes it a disappointment.

So, the "team" thing didn't quite work out.

Let's look at the individuals. Plenty to like and dislike there, too, but something Bucks fans should hang their hat on is the play of Ersan Ilyasova. The big man, who is not playing tonight with a right knee injury, has made the national conversation as a potential Most Improved Player candidate averaging 13 points, 8.8 rebounds and shooting 45.5-percent from the 3-point line.

Why the improvement?

To coach Scott Skiles, it's easy to see; "He's done a good job of keeping it simple."

The veteran coach said Ilyasova got out of the bad habit of launching bad shots with poor footwork, a look Skiles said reminded him of the Bucks' Hoop Troop launching t-shirts into the crowd.

The assembled media giggled at the analogy, but Skiles kept a straight face.

"Literally (looked like that). Literally. Footwork all screwed up and phoom! With not a chance to go in," Skiles said. "Now, if it comes to him and he's at the three, he takes it. If he's inside, he takes it. It's something we've really encouraged him to do and he's kept it real simple. And the other stuff he does well, he's always does well – rebound, play hard and all of that. But he's become a much more …

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Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel added something to the highlight reel with a massive home plate collision.
Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel added something to the highlight reel with a massive home plate collision.

Mat Gamel's collision at home plate one worth watching. Again.

Even if you live it, sometimes you can't believe it.

This goes for all things good, bad, and ... interesting.

Mat Gamel's vicious meeting with Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro Tuesday night has been one of the most watched highlights of this young baseball season already, and that won't stop any time soon.

It's just too awesome.

Fortunately for Brewers fans, Mat's wife Julianne tweeted late last night that her hubby was OK.

Her tweet dampened any concern there might have been when manager Ron Roenicke decided to give Gamel the night off.

So while the constant replays in the Brewers clubhouse caught Gamel's rapt attention and some good-natured hoots from his teammates, Roenicke's reaction was understandably different.

 "Yeah, I watched it this morning," he said with some resignation.

When asked if it looked worse on replay than in person, he groaned.

"It was bad both times."

As long as it's not us delivering - or receiving - said blow, it only gets better if you watch it again. And again. And again.

Like this one.

 

And for all those - including Houston manager Brad Mills - who thought the play was unnecessary, or perhaps a little dirty, I don't think so. In that moment, Gamel made what he thought was the best decision to try and score. That was that.

It wasn't this.

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Yovani Gallardo pitched well on Tuesday night, helping stop the Brewers' 4-game losing streak.
Yovani Gallardo pitched well on Tuesday night, helping stop the Brewers' 4-game losing streak. (Photo: David Bernacchi)
Zack Greinke followed it up with a solid start on Wednesady night.
Zack Greinke followed it up with a solid start on Wednesady night. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

Double Aces trumps Double Rainbows

I'll be honest – I was a little taken aback by the Milwaukee Brewers' recent four-game losing streak.

Not that I suddenly felt the team wouldn't win the NL Central, or that they were a bad team – but simply that they had lost four straight. Not to discount Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson and Shaun Marcum, but with Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke I figured it'd be near impossible for this team to put together anything longer than a three-game skid.

Then I remembered I'm not good at math, so allow me a revision: A four-game losing streak is about as bad as it could be for the Crew this season. And it would have to fall just like it did this time, where one of the two aces faltering just after, or before, the other wins.

It's why they're here – to avoid prolonged losing streaks and give this team a great chance to reach the playoffs. Gallardo did that last night in a no-decision against the best team in baseball (by record), and tonight Greinke matched him with two runs allowed through seven innings on four hits with seven strikeouts.

Gallardo admitted he felt it was necessary to perform like an "ace", but of course said all of the pitchers in the rotation feel that way.

They may feel that way, but everyone knows the pressure, the hope, the expectation, fall on the right shoulders of Gallardo and Greinke.

And more often than not, they produce. See the last two nights.

Watching the two of them pitch-by-pitch brought me to this realization as well: Double Aces > Double Rainbow.

And no, this was not a cheap way to show this video. Seriously. Ask the tens of thousands of fans who filed through Miller Park the last two nights.

 They'll agree with me.

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Milwaukee Bucks forward Ekpe Udoh gained some national notoriety with his tweet to Jeremy Lin.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Ekpe Udoh gained some national notoriety with his tweet to Jeremy Lin.

Udoh engages Lin in TwitterKombat

Forward Ekpe Udoh, who came to the Milwaukee Bucks as part of the team's trade of Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors, earned a bit of national notoriety on Deadspin following the Bucks' 111-107 loss to the New York Knicks on April 11.

Why?

Two words.

It was probably a playful jab from the affable Udoh because after all , once you learn how to Dougie with someone, you're BFFs for life.