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News » BUCKS Bogut leaves a big hole Larger foes press Jennings on defense

BUCKS Bogut leaves a big hole Larger foes press Jennings on defense

BUCKS  Bogut leaves a big hole  Larger foes press Jennings on defense By CHARLES F. GARDNER

It's a dangerous time for the Milwaukee Bucks .

After a surprising 8-3 start to the season, they hit their first turbulent air while losing three straight road games.

The Bucks returned home Saturday only to face the Orlando Magic, the defending Eastern Conference champion, featuring Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter.

Center Andrew Bogut, a key component in the Bucks' fast start, did not play on the four-game road swing due to a left leg injury. Shooting guard Michael Redd returned in San Antonio on Monday but struggled, shooting 8 for 28 in the three games he played.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute traveled on the trip but was unable to return to the lineup when he continued to have pain in his left foot from an injury he suffered against Dallas on Nov. 16.

And rookie sensation Brandon Jennings also hit some speed bumps when opposing defenses started to focus on him.

Jennings was 6 for 21 from the field in San Antonio, 4 of 15 in New Orleans and 3 of 11 in Oklahoma City, where the Bucks suffered a 108-90 thumping on national TV Friday night.

"The one thing that's happening to him is the other teams are making an effort of just attacking his defense," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "So far, he hasn't handled that well. People are just going right by him.

"We know he's a work in progress, especially on that end of the floor. We've got to try to help him get better."

Tony Parker and George Hill drove the ball at Jennings in San Antonio. Fellow rookie Darren Collison did the same in New Orleans, and Russell Westbrook was highly effective in attack mode for the Thunder.

After the loss in Oklahoma, Jennings pointed to the absence of the 7-foot Bogut, who was averaging 16.1 points and 9.2 rebounds when he was injured against New Jersey on Nov. 18.

Jennings and Bogut were working well together in pick-and-roll situations, and Bogut's rebounding prowess helped that part of the Bucks' game. Milwaukee was out-rebounded badly by both New Orleans and Oklahoma City.

Bogut is a big part of what's going on, Jennings said. "We've just got to pick it until he comes back, and I think we'll be all right.

"We're missing an inside presence where he can score every night, and that just opened up the game for me and for everybody else. (Now) you've got to play different and you've got to make a lot of things happen. Instead of with Bogut, he'll make things happen on his own."

The pressure to create plays has fallen on Jennings and guard Luke Ridnour, who often has played in tandem with the rookie. But that creates a few problems on the defensive end of the floor, with the 6-foot-2 Ridnour being forced to defend against much bigger players.

"We're starting to face opponents that make it very difficult," Skiles said.

Redd has struggled to become a featured part of the offense since his return. He played just 11 minutes in San Antonio and clearly was rusty, but he was able to go 30 minutes in New Orleans and played in overtime as the Bucks lost to the Hornets, 102-99.

The 30-year-old Redd shot 4 of 16 against the Hornets and was 3 of 9 while scoring eight points Friday against the Thunder.

"Michael has yet to shoot the ball well, and we're waiting for him to get on track," Skiles said.

The Bucks have a brief two-game homestand, featuring Orlando and the Chicago Bulls making their first visit Monday night, before they go back on the road to play Washington on Wednesday and Detroit on Friday.

How the Bucks respond to their first losing streak of the season will be critical.

"It definitely happens," Bucks veteran center Kurt Thomas said of the difficult stretch.

"We've been in a lot of games, and we let one or two slip away there. We've got some good guys in this locker room, and we're going to stay together."

The Bucks -Magic game Saturday night ended too late to be included in this edition. For coverage, please visit

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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