Atlanta - The Milwaukee Bucks faced the grim reality of the situation Wednesday night after their 102-96 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. Sure, the Bucks played without leading scorer Michael Redd and leading rebounder Andrew Bogut. They played another team tough on the road, and they were never really out of the game.
But those words are all beginning to ring a bit hollow to the Bucks these days.
That's because when the dust had settled, the Bucks were sitting with a 7-10 record and facing difficult games at Detroit on Friday and at home against Cleveland on Saturday.
"That's what our record indicates we are, and that's what we are," forward Richard Jefferson said. "That's reality. That's what we are right now. We're a 7-10 team. We're not a 7-10 team that will be better. We're not a 7-10 team that's had a lot of road games. We're a 7-10 team, so we have to improve."
Coach Scott Skiles is growing weary of talking about comebacks that came up short and near-misses.
"This is pro sports," he said. "We're paid to win. Nobody is going to present me a medal because we're not out of the game. We're supposed to be in the game and we're supposed to win the game. And we had our opportunities again. We just weren't able to make the plays.
"We're 7-10 right now. That's the reality of it and we need to address the things that we're doing that are costing us games. Falling asleep off the ball is one thing that is costing us games."
The Hawks never led by more than nine points, but the Bucks' last lead was 40-39 midway through the second quarter. The Bucks came back from an eight-point, second-quarter deficit to tie the game at halftime. They came back from an eight-point deficit to tie the game late in the third quarter. And, they trimmed an eight-point Hawks lead to 91-89 with 2:25 left. But that's as close as they got.
The Bucks shot well and kept their turnovers to a reasonable number, but defensive shortcomings, especially at the three-point line where the Hawks were 10 of 25, proved to be their downfall.
The Hawks shot 49.3% overall and 40.0% from three-point range in topping the 100 mark.
"We're not going to win that game," Skiles said.
Jefferson led the Bucks with 25 points, while reserves Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva pitched in 21 and 19 points, respectively. The Hawks had five players score in double figures and were led by center Al Horford, who scored 21 points, including two key baskets from the low post in the closing minutes.
The Bucks were a despondent bunch afterward.
"This one hurts," said Villanueva. "It hurts a lot. Regardless that we didn't have 'Bogues' or Mike, it's still a game we should have won. We can't make excuses. We have to go out there and just play. We're all professionals and we're all good. We just have to go out there and play. We fell short and it's frustrating."
The Bucks' last gasp occurred after two free throws by forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute cut Atlanta's lead to 91-89, with 2:35 left, but Horford then converted a three-point play and a three-pointer by guard Ronald Murray later gave the Hawks a 99-91 lead with 53.7 seconds to go and the Bucks were done.
"No matter what you say, we're still three games under .500," said point guard Luke Ridnour, who returned after missing one game with a knee abrasion. "The schedule doesn't get any easier and nobody feels sorry for you in this league. We have some tough games coming up, but we've been in this situation before and we've found a way to win so we have to find a way to win the next couple."
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