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NBA: Bucks Surprising Many with their Play

The Central division was property of the Chicago Bulls last season, but my how a year can change everything. This season the NBA’s Central division is led by the Indiana Pacers with two teams, the Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks trailing by just a half game.

Prior to the season, few fans, coaches or sports writers figured the Bucks to challenge for the lead in the division. Yet they are 15-12 thus far and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. With Cleveland and Detroit both struggling, the division is just a dogfight between three teams Milwaukee, Chicago and Indiana.

The Bulls and Pacers have injuries to key players and that has affected their play. Chicago is without Derrick Rose the former NBA MVP, while the Pacers are awaiting the return of high scorer Danny Granger. Both players are not expected to return until sometime in February and possibly later. That could help the Bucks grab a lead in the division and possibly their first title in the division in 11 seasons.

Players for the Bucks are becoming more and more confident of their chances as they see that no team has run out to a lead in the division. The season thus far for Milwaukee can only be described as up and down. The Bucks opened their season 6-2, but then went on a stretch of 2-7. Following a winning streak of four games, the Bucks have now alternated between wins and losses.

Scott Skiles the team’s Head Coach, said the team is not a complete product yet as they are trying to figure out certain things. The Bucks had a tough stretch of playing four games in just five nights, but were able to defeat the Brooklyn Nets 108-93 Wednesday night. However, now they are enjoying a stretch of only one game, the Brooklyn win, over a one-week period.

Monta Ellis is leading the team in scoring and said the team is playing ok but can play much better. He said the team is capable of making a run and being able to separate themselves from the rest of the division but need to take it one game at a time.

Skiles’ trademark has been defense as a head coach and the team is finally starting to grasp what he is looking for. Currently the Bucks are ranked 11th on defense allowing only 96.7 points each game.

Defensively the team has become a premier shot blocking unit. Larry Sanders is tied for the lead in the league with an average of 3 shot blocks per game. Overall, Milwaukee is second in the NBA in shot blocks with an average of 7.5 per game.

Offensively the Bucks have struggled often. The Bucks are ranked just 21st in scoring in the league with only a 95.4 ppg average. The team was supposed to be one of the premier three point shooting teams in the NBA, but has struggled and is close to the bottom of the league shooting just 32.5% from that range.

Ellis has been playing well all season, but over his last three outings, he is averaging over 28 points and five assists per game, while hitting 50% of his shots.

During those same three games, Brandon Jennings has been scoring about three points less than his season average of 17.6, but is dishing out more assists to make up for scoring fewer points.

Those two have had a great deal of pressure on them to contribute big numbers, but that will be slightly lessened with the return of Beno Udrih. He missed 12 games due to a sprained ankle, but returned Wednesday against Brooklyn.

If the Bucks want to win, they will have to win more at home as they are only 8-6 on the season.

However, they have a chance this season thanks to injuries to key players on both Indiana and Chicago.

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