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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

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In Sports

Monta Ellis and the Milwaukee Bucks need their shots to fall in order to win games. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

Bucks need to have success on perimeter to win


After a practice last week at the Cousins Center, Monta Ellis, Drew Gooden and Luc Mbah a Moute engaged in a friendly 3-point shooting contest, going around the world. The first to five makes at various spots, wins.

There would be hot streaks among the group, with Ellis finally besting his teammates by finding his stroke from the deep corner. As the trio worked around the horn, Mike Dunleavy worked on his own shot at the other end of the Cousins Center.

When he finished, Dunleavy watched his teammates and talked about how the identity of this Bucks team may prohibit it from putting together long winning streaks – even as the group exuded a new confidence under coach Jim Boylan.

"We're jump shooting team so we're going to be up and down," Dunleavy said. "There's no way to avoid that. If there was then we'd be a 65-win team. You just gotta ride the highs and be able to avoid the lows."

That was on display last week at the BMO Harris Bradley Center against the Chicago Bulls, when the Bucks – winners of seven of 10 to that point – shot just 41.5 percent from the field in a 104-88 loss.

The team had fallen behind by as many as 18 against Chicago, charged back in the third quarter to pull to within seven, and fell back again. This was after the Bucks rallied from a 15-point deficit en route to a blowout win in Detroit the night before.

That victory against the Pistons on Jan. 29 was the fifth time the team had come back after trailing by 15 points or more.

Perhaps that speaks to the volatile nature of the team – even one game can show just how inconsistent the team can be.

"We are, for the most part, a perimeter oriented team, so shot making is key for us," Boylan said following the loss to Chicago. "The Bulls do a really nice job of crowding you and being aggressive on the perimeter and we didn't handle that very well (Wednesday)."

When the Bucks shoot 45 percent or better, they are 15-5. If they convert below that 45 percent mark, they are just 11-15. The team has been hot (5-0 when shooting 50 percent or better) and very cold (1-10 when shooting 39 percent or lower).

Over halfway through the season, the Bucks are what they are, and they know it. On Friday, they shot 39.8 percent in a loss in New York, then rallied to beat Orlando Saturday on the strength of a 46.7 percent effort from the field.

It's why several players often stay after practice to get in extra shots, and perhaps why if one game goes awry, the next isn't nearly as bad.

"You're going to drop a game or two but hopefully you don't string three or four (together)," Dunleavy said. "That's been what we're doing. If we lose, we bounce back pretty well."


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