ST. FRANCIS, Wis.- The Bucks are 4-2. So far, so good, right?
Well, yes, but Milwaukee sees an opportunity for more. With two very winnable home games left this week and a trip to Charlotte on Monday, the Bucks want to be 7-2 before heading to Miami next Wednesday.
Milwaukee has been 7-2 or better through nine games only twice since 1983. With the Danny Granger-less Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Hornets coming to the BMO Harris Bradley Center this week and lowly Charlotte on Monday, 7-2 is certainly attainable.
“It’s real important,” Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings said. “Once the season gets going and teams get rolling and get in their groove, it’s going to be tough to stop. It’s just the fact that we want to start early; we don’t want to ease into it or play catch up and then end up like we were last year, trying to make the playoffs.”
Bucks coach Scott Skiles doesn’t think stats, rankings or standings matter much right now. He believes that becomes important after roughly 20 games. By then, most teams have played some of the better teams in the league, as well as some of the bottom feeders. But he also sees the importance of grabbing wins early.
“The more you can distance yourself from .500 and give yourself a cushion, the better off you are,” Skiles said. “We’d like to do that right now early in the season.”
That starts Wednesday with Indiana. A playoff team a year ago, the Pacers suffered a big blow last week when they lost Granger for three months after he received an injection in his left knee to treat patellar tendinosis.
Granger, who was Indiana’s leading scorer last season at 18.7 points per game, originally hurt the knee during the playoffs last year. The Pacers are 3-4 without him and have been in almost all of their games in the fourth quarter but are struggling to find a go-to option late. The margin for error without their star has been slim.
Still, Indiana is a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference and presents an interior challenge for the Bucks similar to Memphis, the only team Skiles believes his team didn’t play well against
Forwards David West and Paul George, as well as big center Roy Hibbert will test the Bucks front line like the Memphis tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
“They are more of a Memphis-type team, in terms that they play inside out,” Skiles said. “They have big bodies down low, they try to play in the paint and run a lot of pick and rolls. I think it is fair to say in the Memphis game that we got owned a bit by their big people inside. It’s that style of team and we just have to be ready for that size and style of play.”
All-Star ballot debuts: It’s only November, but balloting for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game launched Tuesday. Fans can now to vote on NBA.com, via Facebook and Twitter, on the NBA’s mobile app and through text.
Four Bucks are on the 120-player ballot, including guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, forward Ersan Ilyasova and center Samuel Dalembert. None of the four has ever been an All-Star.
The game will be played Feb. 17 in Houston. Voting ends Jan. 14, with starters being announced three days later.