Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bucks Defeat Suns For The First Time In Decades

Bucks versus Suns
All it took was four points to snap the Milwaukee Bucks near twenty-five year losing streak in Phoenix last Thursday. A 98-94 win for the team finally garnered their first victory in the city since 1987, and their first ever in the US Airways Center, where they have now improved to one-and-nineteen. Adding in a win on Saturday night at Portland, the Bucks are now twenty-one-and-eighteen on the season, just three-and-a-half games behind the first place Pacers in the Central Division.

Interim head coach Jim Boylan told reporters following the game that he avoided speaking about the team's historic slump in the Valley of the Sun. Going five-for-seven since the unexpected departure of previous head coach Scott Skiles, Boylan said that his choice to not discuss the topic was simply a change of style from his predecessor, who was often adamant about the team's dismal performances in the past against the Suns.

Boylan couldn't completely forget the topic, however. Stashed in his pocket that night was the frayed original box-score from the Bucks February win at the then Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum a quarter-century ago. Fingering the document nearly the entire game, the Wisconsin native's emotions got the better of him with just under a minute left in regulation, stepping more than five feet onto the court to celebrate a three-point dagger by Micheal Dunleavy that put the Bucks up by eight. Dunleavy's father, Mike Sr., was one of nine previous Milwaukee coaches who never won against the Suns.

Boylan's Good Luck Charm At Phoenix

Amidst the celebrations in the winning locker room that night, Boylan took the opportunity to show his players their proverbial good-luck charm. Dunleavy, who was just six at the time of the Bucks last win against the Suns, said that after seeing the old box-score, the enormity of the win really set in. The forward explained that it is hard to fathom all the years that his team had failed to find success in Arizona, going so far as to say that if Boylan had been hired as head coach in 1988, the Bucks would have been a much different organization today.

For his part, Dunleavy landed sixteen points on the night for the Bucks, matching Brandon Jennings performance. Larry Sanders had nineteen points, as well as a pair of blocks in the fourth quarter that helped to clinch the win. Monta Ellis continued to impress, putting up a game-high twenty-four points.

Boylan's squad still has a lot of work to put in, however. Despite the Suns uncharacteristic thirteen-and-twenty-eight record, it took Milwaukee the entire game to finally pull away. Even after starting off with a quick ten-point lead by the end of the first quarter, the Bucks allowed Phoenix’s high-powered offense, led by Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O'Neal, to manage a three-point lead at halftime. It wouldn't be until a Sanders dunk with just under three minutes remaining that the Bucks would take the lead for good.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bucks Snap Losing Streak And Part Ways With Skiles

Jim Boylan Bucks Coach
The Bucks snapped a four game losing-streak Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, beating the Suns 108 to ninety-nine. The win capped off a turbulent two days of announcements regarding the departure offour-year head coach Scott Skiles, as well as the placement of interim head coach Jim Boylan. With the win, the team avoids falling below .500 for the first time this season, as well as maintains a one game advantage over Boston in the conference.

In what was called a calm and unexpected discussion, Bucks general manager John Hammond and Skiles reached a mutual agreement for the two parties to part ways. In the midst of his fifth season at the helm of the team, Skiles could not manage to right the Buck's wavering consistency, leading them through a series of win-streaks and slumps over thirty-two games in 2012. Four consecutive losses to begin this year turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back, as Hammond made the coach aware of his thoughts at the Cousin's Center after practice on Monday.

Players immediately began commenting about the news on social media following its release, most wishing good luck to Skiles in the future and their thanks for his support and leadership. Star point guard Brandon Jennings had an especially heartfelt farewell message for his only professional coach, thanking Skiles for believing in him as a rookie and helping him become the player he is today.

Other players touched on the Boylan subject, especially his intentions to meet with every one of them personally to discuss their thoughts on the team. Center Larry Sanders said that Boylan's dedication to quality communication was a big boost for his confidence in the interim coach, adding that it will be a welcome improvement to the team's chemistry. Power forward Ersan Ilyasova put it bluntly when he said he felt uneasy playing under Skiles, worrying that any mistakes may cost him minutes. Boylan himself agreed that as an assistant under Skiles, he was often more preoccupied with keeping his job than he was with coaching the team.

Regardless of his fears, Boylan sustained various positions under Skiles for over ten-years at three professional institutions. Moving from head coach at the University of New Hampshire to a video-coordinator position for the Cavilers, Boylan first worked with Skiles as an assistant in Phoenix. The two met again in Chicago, where Boylan had his first mid-season takeover for Skiles, after the later was fired in 2008. As interim head coach there, Boylan finished the season with a twenty-four-and-thirty-two record.

Bucks Still Hope To Make Playoffs In 2013

Hammond is hoping for better than that in 2013, expecting Boylan to keep the Bucks within the top eight playoff spots for the eastern conference. Tuesday's game against the Suns was an optimistic debut for the second-time head coach, though Wednesday's test against fellow central division rivals the Chicago Bulls will be the first true test he faces this year.

As to the future, Hammond revealed that Boylan is a top candidate for the permanent job, though his performance throughout the rest of this season will decide that. Boylan's vacated assistant position is likely to go to scout Chris Gilmartin.