Skiles puts Bucks’ season in perspective

Coach refuses to lower bar of expectations or use excuses

By Truman Reed

Scott Skiles

“We believe in a pretty simple philosophy: Play good defense, rebound the ball and run every time,” Scott Skiles said.

The Milwaukee Bucks rewarded their fans for their support throughout a difficult 2010-11 season with a 93-86 victory over the Toronto Raptors in their home finale April 11.

Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles undoubtedly wanted that win as much as anyone in the building that night.

But when Skiles spoke about the victory afterwards, he made it clear that it was by no means a significant measuring stick.

Skiles was asked if the home finale victory was bigger than the team’s previous two home wins. His response reflected that yes, he was looking at the scoreboard like everyone else, yet he was looking at a much bigger picture, too – just like he always has.

“Well, that’s a tough question, because the reality is that unless you’re the type of person who has an incredibly low bar, this has been a poor season,” Skiles said. “So if I answered that question with, ‘We wanted to win the game because we wanted to win the game,’ that’s no disrespect to the fans.

“What happens is, when you don’t have a good season, everyone looks for the slightest little thing to be positive about. I prefer to always think about not, ‘What is it going to take not to beat the Toronto Raptors in the last home game, but what is it going to take to beat the Boston Celtics or the Chicago Bulls in a seven-game series?’ I don’t think you get there unless you think like that. That’s just been my personal belief system.”

Skiles couldn’t blame the fans for looking for silver linings in their last visit of the season to the Bradley Center.

“I realize people want to grab onto something to feel good about,” he said. “We certainly wanted to play well tonight. But if we play really well tonight and win the game, does that mean our fans are going to go home and say, ‘I knew we could do it!’ or are they going to go home and say, ‘Look, it was a poor year. We’re still going to support them (hopefully), but it was not a good season. I think that’s more realistic.”

The reality of Milwaukee’s 2010-11 campaign was a 35-47 record, which left the team ninth in the Eastern Conference, two games out of the National Basketball Association Playoffs.

The Bucks wound up 30th in the NBA in scoring at 91.9 points per outing and last in field-goal percentage at 43 percent. Those figures provided the roots of their struggles this season.

They didn’t even reach their 43-percent mark in their home finale, shooting 42.1 percent, but did capitalize to the tune of 22 fast-break points, a figure they exceeded only four times this year.

“We believe in a pretty simple philosophy: Play good defense, rebound the ball and run every time,” Skiles said. “Now, getting guys to do that is very difficult.

“We want to run every time. Toronto’s not a great transition defensive team.  We were getting a lot of those points off deflections and steals. Not many were off actual rebounds and running. It’s something where you have to create a habit of running.  People who have the ball have to make good decisions and deliver the ball.”

Just one season ago, when Milwaukee made the playoffs, six players who saw action in 30 games or more shot better than 45 percent from the field.

In 2010-11, only four players accomplished that feat, and three of them – Andrew Bogut, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Jon Brockman – launched the majority of their shots from within 10 feet of the basket.

The team shot only 34.2 percent from 3-point range to rank 24th in the league in that department.

“Offensively, we never did get it together,” Skiles said.

One of the overriding frustrations of the season for Bucks players, coaches and fans alike was that the team could have stacked up substantially higher than it did with even a mediocre shooting percentage because it turned in a record-setting performance on the defensive end.

Milwaukee yielded a franchise-low 92.7 points per game and allowed the third-fewest points in the league, 7,603.

The Bucks’ defensive field-goal percentage was 44.7, a figure bettered by only five teams in the league.

“Defense is something we’ve got established now,” Skiles said. “We’ve got enough guys buying into it now that we’re going to continue being a good defensive team.”

The defensive prowess kept the Bucks in the majority of their games, but it also made the struggles at the other end of the court maddening.

“If we would have had the type of season where we have had a lot of blowouts, or a lot of games had gotten away from us, we could say, ‘Well, OK. We missed a lot of guys this year. We had a lot of injuries. We just weren’t able to do it,’” Skiles said. “But we were in every game. “Even being injured, we had opportunities to win games and we weren’t able to take advantage of it.”