Now might be an appropriate time to give Mr. Ripley a call. The Milwaukee Bucks have won two games in succession.
It took the Bucks more than a month to accomplish that modest feat, but they now are proud owners of a two-game winning streak after a 110-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Saturday night at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks, coming off a victory Friday night in Toronto, rode an 18-0, first-half run to Saturday's victory, although they had to hold off a frantic Hawks rally in the closing minutes. The Bucks had not won consecutive games since Dec. 19-23, when they defeated New York, the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah and had failed in their previous eight attempts to win a second straight game.
"Win one, lose one," said guard Charlie Bell who scored 16 off the bench and sank a half-court shot to close out the first quarter. "We had .500 right there in front of us and we missed a lot of opportunities to get back to .500. When Mike (Redd) went down, a lot of people were writing us off, but we feel like we're starting to get in a groove now. When Mike first went down, everybody was kind of searching and feeling their way through, but now we know how we've got to play - move the ball and play together."
And yes, it had been frustrating not being able to put two victories together.
"It had been beyond frustrating," said forward Richard Jefferson, who made 11 of 12 free throws and scored 20 points. "There have been so many crazy things that have gone on here so far. We stayed positive and stayed focused and we're getting there."
Forward Charlie Villanueva scored 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting to lead the Bucks. He scored 18 points in leading Milwaukee to a 53-48 halftime lead. Villanueva sank 4 three-point shots, all seven of his free throws and also pitched in seven rebounds and six assists.
Ramon Sessions matched Jefferson's 20 points, and Luke Ridnour finished with 12 points and nine assists. Andrew Bogut, coming back from a back injury, had nine points and six rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
"Defensively we played well," said Bell, who made 7 of 12 shots, including two from beyond the arc. "Offensively, we're getting a lot of production from a lot of guys. With Mike going down, it's been step up by committee. Guys are really stepping up and it's big. If we keep moving the ball and keep playing defense, we're going to be in a lot of games and win a lot of games."
The Bucks scored the final seven points of the first quarter, including Bell's half-court heave, to take a 29-22 lead. 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.
The Bucks made 14 of 18 shots (77.8%) in the third quarter and took an 87-74 lead into the fourth. Milwaukee led, 94-83, with 7 minutes left, but the Hawks took one last charge. They closed to within six with 3 minutes left, but the Bucks made nine of 10 free throws down the stretch to hold off the Hawks. Two free throws by Ridnour with 7 seconds left clinched the victory.
"I thought it was a great effort from beginning to end," said coach Scott Skiles. "We made mistakes, but so did they. We really played hard."
Said Jefferson, "We played like it was an important game. We came out and played like we had something to prove. We haven't done that in a long time."
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