Tue. Final: Bucks 94, Jazz 86
By By Kyle Dlabay
Next game: Saturday, December 27 vs. Detroit
Despite still being two games under .500, the Milwaukee Bucks are showing signs of being a playoff contender.
With six players in double figures, the Bucks beat the Utah Jazz 94-86 at the Bradley Center Tuesday night. Michael Redd led Milwaukee with 27 points. The Bucks have won five straight games at home and five of their last six games overall.
"We're positive," Redd said. "You want to continue to stay humble and keep working hard. We realize that we're gaining ground but we're still under .500."
The Bucks took a 15-14 lead halfway through the first quarter and did not lose that lead until the fourth quarter when Andrei Kirilenko knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 77. But, Milwaukee answered right back with a 6-0 run and the Jazz would not get any closer than two points the rest of the way.
Both teams shot 38 percent from the field for the game but the Bucks forced 23 turnovers and committed just 11.
Redd knocked down a jumper with 1:12 left in the game to put the Bucks up 90-85. Then on the ensuing possession for Utah, Andrew Bogut took a charge as Kirilenko drove toward the lane. After Redd missed a shot, Kirilenko was wide open from the corner but air balled a three-pointer and Matt Harping got the rebound and missed a wide open lay-in.
At one point in the second half the Bucks had a 19-point lead. Richard Jefferson hit a deep two-pointer with 7:15 left in the third quarter to put the Bucks up 63-44. However, Deron Williams made a lay-up with two seconds left in the quarter to pull Utah within five at 69-64.
"We had trouble making the key shot," Skiles said about the team's shooting. "We had some shots we couldn't make and adjustments we had to make throughout the game. It was a great battle."
Andrew Bogut led the Bucks with 11 rebounds and had nine points. Luc Mbah a Moute was close to a double-double as well with ten points and nine rebounds. Richard Jefferson had a tough night with ten points on 3-14 shooting.
Ramon Sessions continued the balanced scoring off the bench with 13 points while Charlie Villanueva had ten off the pine. Luke Ridnour had a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists.
"It was a physical game and we knew they were going to be like that so it was just a matter of grinding it out," Ridnour said.
Both teams struggled from the perimeter as the Bucks and Jazz combined to shoot 4-30 from three-point range with Milwaukee going 1-16.
No team in the Eastern Conference has played more road games than the Bucks so far this season (18).
"We can't use that as an excuse," Bogut said. "Every team plays 82 games. Every team has 41 away games. We just have more than most other people at this point but it's going to catch up to other teams later on."
Utah was led by Kirilenko who had 22 points and 11 rebounds. Deron Williams added 17 with eight rebounds and eight assists.
The Jazz were without both Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Boozer has been out since he strained his left quad tendon against the Bucks back in November in Salt Lake City. Okur missed the game due to back spasms.
Paul Millsap left the game in the first quarter with soreness in his left knee but returned in the second half after x-rays came back negative.
Milwaukee also suffered an injury in the game when Charlie Bell left in the second quarter with right knee soreness. Bell missed six games earlier this season with right ankle soreness.
The Bucks are back in action Saturday night against the Pistons at the Bradley Center.
"It's always good to get a break," Mbah a Moute said. "Get some rest. Get refreshed a little bit. Get your mind off basketball. Come back with some new energy. I'm going to enjoy it."