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News » Bucks miss chances at an even better start Inability to finish yields close defeats

Bucks miss chances at an even better start Inability to finish yields close defeats

Bucks miss chances at an even better start  Inability to finish yields close defeats By CHARLES F. GARDNER

New Orleans - Close defeats and late-game mistakes have kept the Milwaukee Bucks from an even more impressive start to their season.

The Bucks (8-5) have lost three games by three points or fewer, including two in overtime. The latest heartbreaking defeat came Wednesday night when the Bucks , who led for most of the game, gave up a game-tying three-pointer late in regulation and fell in overtime, 102-99, to the New Orleans Hornets.

Even after Milwaukee gave up Darren Collison's three-pointer, the Bucks had 7.5 seconds to run a play and win the game in regulation. But rookie point guard Brandon Jennings eventually lost his dribble and never got a shot off in the final seconds, leading to overtime.

Now the Bucks are 1-2 and needing a victory in Oklahoma City on Friday night to return home with a .500 mark on their weeklong road swing against Western Conference teams.

"We haven't been as sharp with our execution in the moments we need to be," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "I don't think that's terribly unusual or anything. We've got a lot of new players and Michael (Redd) is back now. We're trying to figure things out.

"And let's face it. In several of our wins, Brandon has made a bunch of big plays at the end of the games. We need other guys to step in there and make big plays as well."

In a two-point loss in Chicago on Nov. 3, Ersan Ilyasova missed a three-point shot on the Bucks' final possession.

In an overtime loss at home to Dallas on Nov. 16, Jennings had a chance to win in the final seconds of regulation but missed a shot. The Mavericks eventually won on Dirk Nowitzki's buzzer-beating shot in overtime.

On Wednesday, the Bucks again had plenty of chances.

"We're fighting; we're not just giving up," Jennings said. "That's one thing I can say about it. We're getting unlucky at the last minute.

"That rebound on Collison's missed free throw, it got tipped all over the place and (Devin) Brown wound up with the ball. Certain things are happening at the end to us and it's not going too good right now."

Jennings referred to Collison missing a foul shot with 8 seconds left in overtime and the Hornets leading, 100-99. Instead of the Bucks grabbing the rebound and having a final chance to win the game, the ball bounded far past the free-throw line to Brown and he was fouled.

Brown converted both free throws, leaving the Bucks with only a last-ditch three-point attempt missed by Redd.

"We've got to keep fighting back and go into Oklahoma City with the same focus we did tonight," Redd said.

Bucks guard Luke Ridnour and forward Hakim Warrick sparked a huge bench effort with 23 and 22 points, respectively, against the Hornets. Ridnour added 10 assists and seven rebounds.

But he bemoaned the missed opportunity as the Bucks moved on for a back-to-back set with Oklahoma City and Orlando. Milwaukee returns home to meet the Magic on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.

"It's about winning games," Ridnour said. "It's early in the season, we know that. We've got to capitalize on getting a run going. The NBA gets tougher and tougher as it goes.

"We've got to try to get on a roll here."

It's true the Bucks have won a couple close ones, including a 129-125 decision in Jennings' 55-point game against Golden State and a 103-98 decision at Memphis to start the current trip.

Wednesday night, Jennings was 4 for 15 from the field and said he never got into a real rhythm after picking up two fouls in the first 3 minutes of the game.

"He struggled," Skiles said. "Other than the game at Philly, his road numbers and home numbers are different. That's typical for a rookie.

"Teams are adjusting to him a little bit. They're coming after him and getting aggressive with him. He has to be much better and stronger with the ball."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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