As if losing on back-to-back nights to open a brutal six-game road trip wasn’t bad enough, the Milwaukee Bucks also had to deal with their coach being briefly hospitalized and losing their former All-Star guard for the season.
They’ll hardly get any sympathy from the Portland Trail Blazers.
Perhaps, though, the Bucks can summon some memories of last month’s double-overtime victory over Portland on Wednesday night as they try to deal the injury-riddled Trail Blazers another defeat at the Rose Garden.
Portland (23-16) has lost centers Greg Oden(notes) and Joel Przybilla(notes) for the season, is currently without Travis Outlaw(notes), Rudy Fernandez(notes) and Nicolas Batum(notes), and has Nate McMillan coaching with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.
Milwaukee (15-20) can’t come close to matching that list of ailments, but it found out about two significant ones Monday before visiting Phoenix. The Bucks pronounced Michael Redd(notes) out for the season after he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee during Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, and coach Scott Skiles was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat, leaving Jim Boylan to lead the team.
Outscored 36-15 in the first quarter, Milwaukee stormed back and even took a one-point lead midway through the fourth. The Suns recovered, though, handing the Bucks their 22nd straight loss in Phoenix, 105-101.
“There are no moral victories in the NBA - you win and you lose - but there are lessons to be learned,” Boylan said. “Hopefully, the way we played the last three quarters is something we can carry over when we get up to Portland.”
Skiles, meanwhile, has been cleared to coach Wednesday, but his absence still had his players worried.
The Bucks have lost three straight in Portland, but they earned a thrilling win in the first meeting this season. LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) had 31 points and 11 rebounds for Portland, but Luke Ridnour’s(notes) 20 points in 21 minutes off the bench keyed Milwaukee’s 108-101 double-overtime victory Dec. 12.
Assistant Dean Demopoulos coached the Blazers in Milwaukee, McMillan’s last game away recovering from surgery. Amid all the injuries since returning, though, McMillan has seen his team uncharacteristically slip up at home.
Portland has lost three of four overall despite shooting above 50.0 percent in each game, and two of those have come at the Rose Garden, where it’s already matched its loss total (seven) from last season. The Blazers dug themselves a 17-point hole Sunday against Cleveland, and a second-half comeback attempt fell short as LeBron James(notes) outscored Brandon Roy(notes) 41-34 in Portland’s 106-94 loss.
“I told the guys we gotta play a little more free. I thought in the first half we were a little too controlled,” said Roy, averaging 31.0 points in the last three games. “We tried to play a little looser in the second half … but (we) just didn’t have enough down the stretch.”
Slowing Bogut could be key for the Blazers on Wednesday. Portland scores a league-low 34.1 points per game in the paint - Milwaukee isn’t too far ahead (36.8) - and the Bucks had a 50-40 edge over the Blazers last month.
Milwaukee is 11-1 when Bogut scores 17 or more.