There's no time like the present to win a couple of games in succession. That was the mind-set that the Milwaukee Bucks , unable to win consecutive games in more than a month, took into Saturday night's encounter with the Atlanta Hawks at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks, coming off a victory Friday night in Toronto, finally achieved their modest goal as they rode an 18-0, first-half run to a 110-107 victory. The Bucks, who had not won consecutive games since Dec. 19-23 when they defeated New York, the Los Angeles Clippers, and Utah, had failed in their previous eight attempts to win a second straight game.
"The guys understand (the situation)," said coach Scott Skiles before the game. "We talked about it earlier that we'd like to follow up last night's performance with a good performance. Whether we win or not, who knows? But we'd like to try and get something going, get some consistency where we're playing the same almost every night. Coming back home, and both teams played (Friday), so this would be an ideal night to try and get that done."
Forward Charlie Villanueva scored 27 points to lead the Bucks, who held off a furious Hawks rally in the closing minutes. Ramon Sessions and Richard Jefferson added 20 points each for Milwaukee. Mike Bibby led Atlanta with 24 points, and Joe Johnson added 23.
Bucks center Andrew Bogut, playing in his second game after missing eight with a bad back, once again came off the bench and Skiles was again limited to playing him about 20 minutes.
"He had a little stiffness (after playing Friday) but it was just stiffness related to the first time playing in quite awhile, not necessarily the injury," said Skiles.
Bogut first entered the game with 4 minutes 51 seconds left in the first quarter and quickly dropped in a layup to give the Bucks a 20-17 lead. Atlanta's Maurice Evans sank a three-point shot to tie the game, but the Bucks scored the final seven points - including a half-court, three-pointer at the buzzer by Charlie Bell - and held a 29-22 led after one quarter.
A jumper by Bell opened the second quarter and ignited a run of 11 straight points that put Milwaukee ahead, 40-22. A three-point basket by Villanueva capped off that spurt of 18 straight Bucks points. Villanueva and Bell scored seven points each during that run. But the Hawks got hot from the three-point line, outscored the Bucks to end the second quarter, 17-4, and Milwaukee led at halftime, 53-48.
Milwaukee extended its lead to 10 early in the third and with the Bucks making eight of their first nine shots, they still led by six midway through the quarter. The Bucks made 14 of 18 shots (77.8%) in the third quarter and took an 87-74 lead into the fourth. The Bucks outscored the Hawks, 11-5, to close out the quarter.
The Bucks led, 94-83, early in the fourth, but the Hawks had one last charge left as they cut the lead to 97-92 with 4 minutes left. But the Bucks made most of their free throws and held off Atlanta from there although they let the Hawks get dangerously close in the final seconds. Two free throws by Luke Ridnour with 7 seconds left clinched the victory.
The Bucks had been looking for some payback from a 30-point loss they suffered in Atlanta on Jan. 23. It was their most one-sided loss of the season. Bucks guard Michael Redd played in that game, but Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said that he liked the Bucks lineup even without Redd.
"Michael gives them that 20-point scorer," said Woodson. "But Villanueva is playing great. Jefferson will look to score more points and now they got the big fella, Bogut, back. I like their team and their talent and I think at the end of the day they're going to be right there in the hunt for a (playoff) spot."
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