MILWAUKEE — With four straight preseason losses after an encouraging 2-0 start, the Milwaukee Bucks are feeling a sense of urgency.
And their coach, Scott Skiles, isn’t shy about pointing out his team’s poor performance of late.
“One of the things that have to happen if you want to get better or improve at anything, you’ve got to be realistic as well,” Skiles said. “Our defense was very good the first two games and hasn’t been very good in the last four. Our offensive execution is coming along. … We haven’t played very well recently. We have to acknowledge that.”
In the Bucks’ most recent loss, in Toronto on Monday, Milwaukee gave up the lead late, as point guard Kyle Lowry stole the show. It was certainly a deflating loss for a team that needed to show improvement this preseason.
After holding their first two opponents to an average of 85.5 points per game, the Bucks have seen their last four opponents put up an average of 100.7. The defense just hasn’t been there, Skiles said. And he’s not pleased.
Shooting guard Monta Ellis, on the other hand, took a much more relaxed view of the Bucks’ preseason woes. While acknowledging that the Bucks haven’t been playing at the level they need to reach, Ellis didn’t put much weight on a handful of preseason losses.
“It may look bad, but at the same time, we’re getting better in some parts of our game,” Ellis said. “The little parts that we’re messing up is not a big thing. It’s a little thing. The way we look at it, we’re not losing big. We’re losing by two, three points, four points. … We just correct the mistakes, we’ll be all right.”
Starting lineup potential: Tobias Harris is far from guaranteed as the Bucks’ starting small forward. But if there’s anyone to bet on in the race, Harris might be the guy.
With the sheer amount of playing time he’s received while Luc Mbah a Moute has been injured, the Bucks have surely given Harris as much opportunity as possible to take the reins at small forward. But Skiles and Harris both admit that the last two games haven’t really shown Harris best side. He made just one of seven shots in Monday night’s game, scoring three points with four turnovers.
“The last two games, I’ve been pressing a little bit,” Harris said. “You just grow from those two games. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
That’s normal for a young player to experience, Skiles said. He doesn’t seem very concerned by Harris’ recent hiccups.
“If his shot doesn’t go in early in the game and stuff like that, he tends to press a little bit more, a common thing young guys do,” Skiles said. “He’s worked awfully hard this summer, and that’s why we’re trying to give him as much of an opportunity as we can right now to see if we think he’s ready for that spot. You know what Mike (Dunleavy) is going to do. You know what Marquis (Daniels) is going to do. … Luc is out still, but you kind of know what he’s going to do when he comes back.”
Skiles also didn’t rule Mbah a Moute (knee) for the season opener, but he hasn’t heard any new information on a time table.
Sanders’ incident: After being suspended by Skiles for Monday night’s game due to a “conduct” issue, power forward Larry Sanders was mum on the nature of the issue at Tuesday’s practice.
Sanders wouldn’t say whether he was fined for the incident and shook off most other questions about his suspension. It wasn’t an offense that would be repeated, he said.
“No comment on that,” Sanders said. “We’re just moving past it and building from it. It’s something me, the team, the coaches have put behind us. We can talk about the Bobcats. … We’ve got closure. The team has closure. … It’s something we’ve all agreed to move past and not revisit.”