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Series-by-Series






Milwaukee takes first division title since 1986 into the playoffs
Bucks Won't Stop Here
By Bryan Williams

What hopes do all 16 teams have of hopping in the postseason driver's seat? Take a ride with NBA.com as we outline each team's Keys to Success.




EASTERN KEYS

Charlotte
Indiana
Miami
Milwaukee
New York
Orlando
Philadelphia
Toronto

WESTERN KEYS

Dallas
L.A. Lakers
Minnesota
Phoenix
Portland
Sacramento
San Antonio
Utah
MASTER KEY: Like the Houston Comets of the WNBA, the Bucks have their "Big Three," with Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell all capable of carrying the team at any time. It is Allen's versatility, though, that will determine how far Milwaukee goes in the playoffs. The fifth-year guard brings a complete all-around game; scoring inside and out, rebounding, passing, defense. And he's heating up. On April 12 against the Jazz, Allen scored a career-high 43 points and played what he called the best half of basketball he's ever had.

KEY STOPPER: The Bucks aren't known as a defensive team; they were 21st in the league in points allowed, giving up nearly 97 a game, and they don't have a dominant shot-blocker. What the team does do is cause a lot of turnovers. Led by Ray Allen and Lindsey Hunter, five Bucks are averaging better than a steal a game.

KEY IN THE KEY: The Bucks parade a seemingly endless supply of big men off the bench to platoon in the paint depending on the team's needs. Ervin Johnson leads Milwaukee in both rebounds (7.5) and blocks (1.18), Tim Thomas adds some scoring punch inside, and guys like Jason Caffey, Scott Williams, Darvin Ham and Mark Pope will get in the game to mix things up and crash the boards.

KEY DISTRIBUTOR: After winning two titles with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston, Sam Cassell knows how to pass the ball. Averaging 7.6 assists per game â good for eighth in the league â Cassell can get the ball inside for Glenn Robinson to go to work in the post, or penetrate the lane and kick out to Ray Allen for the jumper.

Cassell
KEY WIN, KEY VID: After starting the season 3-9, the Bucks were struggling just to reach the .500 mark in mid-December. On Dec. 12, Milwaukee went into L.A. and defeated the defending-champion Lakers, 109-105, as Sam Cassell scored five points in the final 3.7 seconds. The victory pulled the Bucks to 10-11 and propelled them to a 16-4 record over the next month.
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KEY RESERVE: A power forward who can shoot the three, Tim Thomas is a legitimate contender for Sixth Man of the Year. He's the team's top scorer after the Big Three, he rebounds the ball and brings determination and hustle. He can also step up and be a big-time shooter when he needs to. In a Jan. 5 loss at Portland, Thomas scored a career-high 39 points, hitting 8-of-10 from downtown.

KEY LONG-RANGE GUNNER: Ray Allen won this season's 1 800 CALL ATT Shootout at All-Star Weekend for good reason; behind the arc, he's one of the best there is. Allen is second in the NBA to Antoine Walker in three-pointers made (202) and tops the Bucks in three-point percentage (43.3). And if that's not enough, Milwaukee has another long-range specialist coming off the bench in Lindsey Hunter, who last season with Detroit ranked third in the league in threes made.


KEY IMAGE



Bigtime Backcourt: Who will match up with this pair? Ray Allen and Sam Cassell combine for 40.2 points, 12.2 assists and 9.0 rebounds per game. (Gary Dineen/NBAE Photos)
KEY INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE: Milwaukee had lost six in a row to the Sixers when they headed into Philadelphia on Feb. 26 to face the Eastern Conference leaders and their newly-acquired center, Dikembe Mutombo. Ray Allen rose to the occasion, posting 42 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in leading the Bucks to an important 98-91 victory on the road. What's more, with the game tied at 80 and just over five minutes to play, Allen hit back-to-back three-pointers, demoralizing Philly and giving Milwaukee the lead for good.

LITTLE-KNOWN KEY: With the game on the line, who do the Bucks want taking foul shots? Anyone. The team is third in the league in free throw percentage, with five players hitting better than 80 percent from the stripe: Ray Allen (88.8%), Sam Cassell (85.8%), Scott Williams, (85.7%), Glenn Robinson (82.0%) and Lindsey Hunter (80.2%).

KEY NEWCOMER: The Bucks got a steal when they acquired Lindsey Hunter from Detroit in exchange for Billy Owens last summer. With the trade, Milwaukee shored up its backcourt with experience, solid defense and perimeter shooting, and Hunter has been a valuable backup for both Sam Cassell and Ray Allen.

KEY TIDBIT: Glenn Robinson is the team's undisputed leader when it comes to Ms. Pac Man or Galaga. A self-professed video game junkie, the Big Dog has game.

 
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