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News » Head games: Losses sapping Bucks' confidence

Head games: Losses sapping Bucks' confidence

Head games: Losses sapping Bucks' confidence By CHARLES F. GARDNER

Boston - Doubts are starting to creep into the minds of Milwaukee Bucks players.

It's only natural the team's confidence would sag a bit as it has lost seven of the last eight games following an exciting 8-3 start.

But Bucks coach Scott Skiles addressed the issue at Monday's practice session and told his players that too much contemplation could be counterproductive.

"We're not thinking properly about it," Skiles said. "Confidence has to come first. You can't be out there in a game feeling unsure about yourself."

The Bucks have lost four games by two-point margins and also suffered a three-point defeat in overtime in New Orleans.

But they have been pushed around in their last two contests, a 105-96 loss in Detroit on Friday and the 101-86 drubbing applied by Cleveland at the Bradley Center on Sunday.

That game featured the 29-0 Cavaliers run that knocked the Bucks out in the first half.

"We've lost some heartbreakers, but that happens during the course of an NBA season," Skiles said. "It's happened to us a lot lately. We can't let every little thing that happens take a huge emotional toll on us.

"We've got to be mentally tougher than that."

Bucks center Andrew Bogut has struggled in the last three games after a 22-point, 15-rebound showing against the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 30. Bogut excelled in his return from a lower leg injury and blocked two shots late in the game to help preserve the Bucks' 99-97 victory over the Bulls.

But he could not duplicate that effort while matching up against Washington's Brendan Haywood, Detroit's Ben Wallace and Cleveland's Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

"He has to play with much more of a swagger, much more confidence than he currently plays with," Skiles said. "Now he does in some games.

"It's got to become more consistent. He's got to establish himself in every game and let the other team feel that he's out there. Sometimes it will be by scoring the ball. Other times it will be getting big rebounds or whatever it is.

"He can't predetermine and think 'I'm playing against a guy I've struggled against before.' He's just got to bring it every night. And he's good enough that when he does, he's very good."

The Bucks are facing a highly challenging stretch of games in the next two weeks. They meet Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics, who are riding a seven-game winning streak, on Tuesday night in Boston.

Then it's back home to play Toronto on Wednesday and Portland on Saturday, before Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers make their only visit of the season to Milwaukee on Dec. 16. The Bucks finish off that week with a rematch in Cleveland and a home game against the surprising Sacramento Kings, featuring rookie sensation Tyreke Evans.

Bucks rookie point guard Brandon Jennings wasn't at his customary spot in front of his locker following Sunday's game, and he admitted he left without speaking to reporters because he was angry about Milwaukee's humbling loss to Cleveland.

"It's a little frustrating right now," Jennings said on Monday. "We didn't score for I don't know how long. Sometimes that happens, but the main thing is trying to get defensive stops on the other end.

"You know, they're a good team. Everything is good on that team. You can't really have a tough scoring night with them."

Jennings said the Bucks have to take a solid approach to the talented teams they are facing.

"We've got to try to find a way to win," Jennings said.

Redd working out: Guard Michael Redd went through practice Monday and said he is making progress after his earlier setback with his left patella tendon strain.

"He looked good again today," Skiles said.

Redd played in three games in late November but did not feel right and returned to the inactive list on Nov. 28. He has missed 14 games due to the injury.

He is getting closer to a return but did not want to speculate on whether he might be ready for the home game Saturday against the Trail Blazers.

"I want no more setbacks," Redd said. "Your legs are everything. If you can't move, it's very difficult to play at this high level of Basketball. I'm training the heck out of it so when I get back, I won't have any issues."

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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