Bucks looking to create home-court advantage
ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — A young basketball team usually struggles on the road, but that hasn’t been the case for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Winners of four straight away from home for the first time in nearly three years, the Bucks have already doubled their road victories from a year ago and are on pace for their most road wins since 2000-01.
Milwaukee is one of five teams in the Eastern Conference with a winning road record (11-10), but it is tied for the fewest home wins among teams currently in playoff position.
The Bucks will try to prevent their home losing streak from reaching four games when they host the Phoenix Suns at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Tuesday.
"Coach (Jason Kidd) talked about that," Bucks center John Henson said. "He said we have to figure out how to win at home. The crowd is a big thing for us. When we are on the road we feed of the other crowd’s energy. We need to do that for our home crowd, and our home crowd has to help us a bit."
Kidd has spoken numerous times this season about his team needing to establish a home-court advantage, something Milwaukee hasn’t been able to do in years.
Including this season’s 7-7 home mark, the Bucks are 55-74 at the Bradley Center since the beginning of the 2011-12 season.
Why has this year’s Bucks team been able to play better on the road than at home?
"There are more distractions," Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "When we come home, I feel we have a lot of distractions. When we go on the road we are just by ourselves and we just play basketball. We just have to figure out a way to translate that to home games."
Others share Antetokounmpo’s sentiment in the Bucks locker room.
"Home is always going to be more comfortable," Henson said. "I think on the road there are less distractions. You go to the hotel and you go to the game, shootaround, take a nap. There aren’t external distractions. That’s probably one of the bigger things."
The Bucks began the season 7-4 at home with victories over Memphis, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers. But two of Milwaukee’s three losses during its current home losing streak have come to teams a combined 20 games under .500.
"I wouldn’t use the word concerned, but obviously it is alarming," Bucks forward Jared Dudley said. "We play different. We play a little bit more aggressive on the road. We get a little bit more stagnant (at home)."
A lackluster loss to the Charlotte Hornets began the streak on Dec. 29 and spurred a lengthy team meeting. The Bucks bounced back after Christmas to rout the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks by 30 points on the road only to struggle in a rematch in Milwaukee the following day.
Last Friday, the Bucks struggled to score in the second half in a 94-91 loss to Indiana.
"For me, it is tough to answer," Bucks guard Brandon Knight said. "I’m not going to say we focus more on the road. I think we know as a group subconsciously that we have to come together and really be locked in on the road to be in a position to win. We just have to find a way to do that at home."
The home losses to Charlotte and Indiana have prevented the Bucks from further capitalizing on their recent success on the road. If Milwaukee is to not only make the playoffs but also secure a seed higher than seven or eight, the Bucks are going to play over .500 basketball at home.
It should be fun to play at home in front of your home crowd. The fans have showed up. That means a lot. The fans are excited for our team, and we should respond.
"We should be fine playing at home, we should be fine playing on the road," Bucks center Zaza Pachulia said. "Us as a young team, we should learn how to play both places. It should be fun to play at home in front of your home crowd. The fans have showed up. That means a lot. The fans are excited for our team, and we should respond."
"Moving forward, once you make the playoffs and gain experience, you need to take care of your home court. Home court means a lot. That’s why teams fight to get a top-four seed. A lot of guys have been there in this locker room, but a lot of guys haven’t. We all are going to understand pretty soon that it is important to win at home."
The Bucks host the Suns and the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves this week with a game in Philadelphia sandwiched in between. Following Milwaukee’s game in London on Jan. 15, the Bucks will play three straight at the Bradley Center, including two against teams under .500.
Also looming on the schedule is a season-long five-game homestand in February in which four of the five opponents currently have under-.500 records.
"I don’t know what it is, but we’ll figure it out," Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. "We need to figure it out ASAP if we want to protect our home court."
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