Pistons have had answer for every Bucks change
Maybe he should talk to the Detroit Pistons, who seem to predict every adjustment Milwaukee makes.
Kukoc, who won three titles with the Chicago Bulls, spent a night in the hospital and has been bedridden with back spasms, allowing him to watch Detroit twice dismantle his current team.
"A team like Detroit, you can't have spurts of seven, eight minutes not playing well because they're using those mistakes; they're using them for break points," Kukoc said Friday.
"If you get down by 18, then you come all the way down to four, then in the next two minutes they go up by 14 points again, everybody gets down. It's not easy to play the game like that."
Young Milwaukee needed postseason experience, with five Bucks playing significant postseason minutes for the first time. Now, they've got to learn how to win -- and quickly.
The Bucks get their next chance Saturday night in Game 3 in Milwaukee in this Eastern Conference series.
The Pistons, with 50 playoff games since 2004, have answered every change Milwaukee has made so far.
"When you are a young team, it is hard to compete with a team that has won one championship and almost won another," Pistons forward Antonio McDyess said. "It's a mental thing. It gets into your head, because you know what those guys have done."
The Bucks said that their best chance in the series was to push the tempo. The Pistons have outscored them 49-27 in transition.
The Bucks said they had to be unselfish and hit shots. The Pistons are shooting 46 percent to Milwaukee's 39 percent clip, and are averaging 8½ more assists a game.
"They have four All-Stars, really they should have five if you look at it, [and] the best record in the NBA," Bucks guard T.J. Ford said. "We've just got to try to limit as much of the stuff that they're good at."
Problem is, that's everything.
Milwaukee has just three wins against Detroit since beating the Pistons once in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.
While the Bucks defiantly say they are still in this series despite needing to win four of the next five games, they realize the Pistons won't let up.
"Nobody wants to be swept. Nobody," Ford said. "Nobody in this building wants to lose 4-0. We have two more shots at it. So it's going to be big, we need to protect our home court."
Kukoc's return might bolster the Bucks' chances. He's day to day, but participated in most of practice Friday. Bucks guard Mo Williams skipped half of practice because of his sprained left ankle. For the Pistons, guard Richard Hamilton only did agility drills and worked on shooting after tweaking his ankle earlier in the series.
"I don't think it's even an issue," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said of Hamilton. "He's going to be fine."
Bucks forward Andrew Bogut, the fourth No. 1 draft pick to reach the postseason in his rookie campaign, even glances ahead, saying winning a game would stave off questions about playoff failures in subsequent years.
"We just need to know what it feels like to win a playoff game," Bogut said. "Even if we don't win this series, as a young team to build for next year it's just good to get a playoff win."
Seven of Milwaukee's current nine-man rotation -- with Kukoc sitting with back spasms -- have set or tied career highs for scoring in the playoffs.
Milwaukee has just three postseason victories in five years, and it's been hard for the Bucks to watch the scoreboard, where manageable deficits are turned into double-digit blowouts in an instant by the relentless Pistons pressure.
"We struggled in Game 1, and shot a little bit better in Game 2, but not enough," Bucks guard Michael Redd said. "We need to make shots with this team. That's what we do best."
But even Milwaukee's best has fallen short so far.
"You think you're playing well, then you look at the score and you're like, 'We're down 15.' That's the sign of playing a good team," Williams said. "At times, we just have mental lapses. Most teams do, but good teams really don't. That's the difference."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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