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LeBron Presents Challenge for Luc in Playoff Series with Miami

The Milwaukee Bucks have been ticketed for the postseason for weeks, but they picked up an important final win on Wednesday to propel them into the postseason on a good note.

Milwaukee defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the final game of the regular season to avoid going into the postseason on a six-game losing streak.

But losing seven of their last 10 games to finish the season at 38-44 has done the Bucks no favors as they draw the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Miami enters the postseason with the best record in the NBA (66-16).


Luc will be an important piece to the series against the Heat for the Bucks (Getty Images).

One of the keys to the matchup will be the health of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and how well he fares defensively against the man he will be tasked with guarding for much of this round, Heat star LeBron James.

« We need Luc for obvious reasons, » Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. « Luc has had a tough year. So to think he’s going to suddenly in a couple days come back to what he was, is unrealistic. But that being said, he’s still capable of being a factor defensively against a variety of players. To have him back feeling good is a key for us. »

Luc’s season was hampered by injuries as he fought back from off-season knee surgery, which forced him to miss the first 14 games of the season. He missed another eight games in March due to turf toe. Now he must prepare for the toughest challenge any team is going to see in the first round of the Playoffs while battle illness.

« The last couple days I’ve been really under the weather, » Luc said. « I don’t know where it’s coming from. I saw the team doctor on Monday and he said it was a virus. He gave me some medicine for my sinus and all that stuff. »

Luc said that being as healthy as he can be will be half the battle when the Bucks tip-off against the Heat for the first game of the series on Sunday evening.

« He’s had a long, hard year. That knee injury, the surgery (in the) off-season. Sometimes that particular injury takes you a long time to fully recover from,” Boylan noted. “You certainly get well enough to play. But with that injury it takes a bit of time. »

James comes into the playoffs as the fourth leading scorer in the NBA this season with 26.8 points per game. He also posted the league’s fifth best shooting percentage for the season at 56.5 percent. The Miami star has been remarkably consistent against the Bucks this year, posting 2 double-doubles against Milwaukee in the four meetings between the two teams.

He averaged 27.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists in those four games, while shooting above 50 percent from the field in any of those games. The Heat won three of the four meetings.

Luc has had success in slowing LeBron down in previous seasons, most notably around the rim. James has a 20 percent lower shooting percentage in the restricted area of the paint when he facing off against Luc (52.1 percent). Against other defenders in that area of the court, he averages 72.7 percent. LeBron also commits 25 percent more turnovers when he shares the court with Luc.

Despite Luc’s past success against James, he and the Bucks realize that Miami’s Big Three are going to be tough to defend. The last time Milwaukee faced the Heat with James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh all on the court together, LeBron and Bosh each scored 28 points while Wade scored 20 and dished out nines assists on the way to a 13-point Miami victory.

« By the process of elimination you can conclude that Monta (Ellis) is going to be guarding Dwyane Wade, » Boylan said of lining up his defense against Miami. « It’s a challenge. These guys are really good. They’re world champions. Dwyane Wade has won multiple NBA championships. LeBron is going to win multiple NBA championships before it’s all over. Let’s not forget Chris Bosh and Ray Allen and all the other guys, too. Shane Battier. They present a large, large number of problems. »

The one game this season where the Bucks were able to beat the Heat on December 29th, they were able to coax poor shots from Bosh (5-for-14) and Allen (1-for-6). Taking away James and Wade and forcing the other members of Miami to beat them could be a key to success for Milwaukee. However, Luc knows it won’t be easy, particularly in the playoffs.

« It’s the playoffs, and everything is higher, » Luc said. « They’re going to come out ready to play and try to impose their will on us. So we’ve just got to compete. »


Though the Heat are favored in the series, Milwaukee is confident in its approach to the series (Getty Images).

Miami has advanced to the NBA Finals each of the past two seasons including a NBA championship last year. In the process, the Heat have won their first round match-up in just 5 games. This is the first postseason for the Bucks in three years and much of the roster has limited if any playoff experience. The only time they made the postseason in Luc’s career, they were ousted by Atlanta in a seven-game battle in 2010.

But Luc said that’s no reason to throw in the towel. He used an example from his favorite sport to watch to illustrate his point.

« We’ve seen Barcelona lose, » Luc said when asked about the Bucks’ chances of upsetting Miami. « Even the great Barcelona lost against (AC) Milan, so you never know, you never know. »

The Bucks and the Heat tip-off their first round of the 2013 playoff series on Sunday in Miami at 6 p.m CDT and the game can be seen on TNT.

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Bucks Clinch Playoff Spot

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and the Milwaukee Bucks are headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.


Luc scored 10 points & grabbed 7 rebounds as the Bucks beat the Raptors to clinch a playoff spot (Getty Images).

The Bucks punched their postseason ticket on Saturday with a 100-83 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Milwaukee amid chants of « Fear the Deer » from the Milwaukee faithful.

Luc posted his best game since returning to the lineup following a bout with illness and a foot injury. He contributed his first double-digit scoring effort since March 2nd with 10 points with seven rebounds, an assist and a steal.

« I thought he looked more comfortable, moving around pretty good, » Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. « I had a chance to play him some pretty good minutes. »

After a loss to the Knicks on Friday night in which the Bucks let a double-digit lead slip away en route to a 101-83 loss, Milwaukee methodically built up an insurmountable lead against Toronto the next evening.

To do so, the Bucks shot 50.9 percent from the floor for the first three quarters compared to a weak 34.3 percent shooting effort from Toronto.

It started with a strong first quarter for the Bucks as they built up a double-digit lead, outscoring their opponent 26-16 in the opening frame. Luc pitched in at the end of the quarter with two-and-a-half outstanding minutes.

He grabbed two boards and used the second one to produce a shot for J.J. Redick that put the Bucks up 24-14 with 54.8 ticks remaining in the first. After Luc entered the game, the Raptors managed just two points to finish the first and those came at the free throw line.

Things escalated for the Bucks in the second and Luc became a major part of the offense early in the frame. Just over two minutes into the quarter, No. 12 exposed a gaping hole in the Toronto defense and galloped through the lane for a dunk that put Milwaukee back in front by 10.


Two minutes later, Luc was again open in the lane, where Monta Ellis fed him the ball for a layup that extended the Bucks lead to 15, 40-25.


The Bucks’ lead ballooned as high as 24 points in the second and they took a 19-point edge into halftime. But unlike Friday night, when Milwaukee led a nine-point halftime lead over the Knicks slip away by allowing 42 points in the third, the Bucks bucked down in the third against Toronto.

The Raptors managed just 13 points in the penultimate quarter on 27.8 percent from the field. Milwaukee didn’t shoot much better, but did a great job of getting to the line 10 times in the third and 23 times through the first thre quarters compared to just 10 shots from the charity stripe for the Raptors.

This advantage at the line, allong with the lead they’d built early allowed the Bucks to take a 25-point lead into the fourth quarter and coast to a victory while resting starters Brandon Jennings, Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and Marquis Daniels for the entire final period.

Luc was solid in relief work in the fourth, tallying five points and four rebounds in 8:40 as he and his fellow reserves helped the Bucks put the game away and clinch their first trip to the postseason since 2010, Luc’s second year in the league.

« It’s what we’ve been working for all year, » Sanders said of clinching the playoff spot that has eluded the Bucks the past two seasons. « It was one of our main goals at the beginning of the season. To finally accomplish that is great. Now we just focus on trying to play better, trying to gain momentum as we go into the playoffs. »

At 37-39, the Bucks are currently the eighth seeded team in the Eastern Conference, 3.5 games behind the seventh seeded Boston Celtics with six games left to play.

« We’re going to do everything we can to try and move up because we just want to keep winning games and end the season on a positive note, » Boylan said. « Whoever we end up playing, we end up playing. Whoever we play against, we’re going to go in and compete and play hard. It would be Miami, New York, Indiana and those are really good teams. »

NEXT UP

Unless the Bucks are able to surpass the Celtics, they will face off against the conference leading Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

That makes Tuesday’s matchup between the two teams a very likely playoff preview. The Bucks are 1-2 against the Heat this season. Luc has played in just one of those previous three games. He scored 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds and the Bucks were +19 with him on the floor in 104-85 victory over the Heat on December 29th.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CDT and the game can be seen on  FS Wisconsin.

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Bucks Finish Trip Strong

The Milwaukee Bucks bounced back from a tough loss in Los Angeles on Wednesday to finish their west coast road trip with back-to-back wins over two of California’s other teams.

On Saturday night, the Bucks went into Oakland and picked up an impressive win over the playoff bound Golden State Warriors. They followed that up with a win on Sunday over the Sacramento Kings to push their record back three games over. 500.

The pair of victories showed some resilience from the Bucks after they dropped their trip opener, a 117-101 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had six points, two rebounds and a pair of steals in the loss, but had a rare off night defensively against LA’s Blake Griffin, who tallied a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

After being overrun by Griffin and the Clippers, the Bucks headed north for a battle with another tough West team. But this one was more evenly matched.

Milwaukee and Golden State went shot-for-shot in the first half and the Warriors took just a one-point lead into the locker room at the intermission. However, the Bucks pulled away in the second half as Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy combined for 9-for-17 from three-point range.

« We were doing it on both ends, » Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. « Guys were really active defensively, chasing down loose balls, diving on the floor, those hustle plays that really make a difference to your team. And then offensively I thought our execution was good. »

Luc contributed seven points with six rebounds and two assists while grabbing three steals in the 103-93 Bucks win.

« I think we played well defensively and that’s what really helped us, » Luc said. « And guys made shots. Brandon and Monta shot the ball well. »

The Bucks finished off their trip with a trek from the Bay Area to the California capital of Sacramento for the second night of a back-to-back against the Kings. Though Milwaukee was weary, they survived a late offensive onslaught from Sacramento to escape with a 115-113 victory in a wire-to-wire thriller.

Playing without Ersan Ilyasova, JJ Redick or shot-blocking machine Larry Sanders, the Bucks still managed to build up a 15-point lead with four minutes left to play. The Bucks bench combined for 43 points and 19 rebounds on the night.

« It shows a lot about the strength of the team, the depth, » Luc said after the Bucks beat Sacramento short-handed. « A lot of guys stepped up tonight from the bench. »

A foot injury forced Luc to sit out part of the first half, but he was able to return after the intermission and finished with seven points and two rebounds.



Luc came back from a foot injury to help the Bucks hold off the Kings in the second half (Getty Images).

Jimmer Fredette led the Kings on a comeback that made things interesting as Sacramento cut Milwaukee’s lead to just one multiple times in the final 30 seconds on a pair of Tyreke Evans lay-up. But Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis each answered with a pair of free throws to preserve the lead. Afterward, Ellis praised the Bucks’ reserve crew for spotting the starters a lead that alowed them to survive the Kings’ run.

« Our bench did a great job for us, » Ellis said after Sunday’s win. « Every team is going to make runs and they made one at the end. But we held them off. It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it. »

Sunday’s victory allowed the Bucks to finish a road trip that started on a bad note 2-1. It was also Milwaukee’s sixth win in their last seven games as they push on toward a highly likely spot in the playoffs.

At 32-29 on the season, the Bucks are 8.5 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 21 games left to play. Milwaukee currently sits as the eight seed in the East, but they’re just 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks, who are tied for sixth, and two games behind the currently fifth seeded Chicago Bulls.

« We’re just going to keep playing, » Boylan said of the Bucks’ positioning in the playoff picture. « You look at the standings and there’s plenty of games left to be played. There’s opportunity for us to move up and we’re going to try to seize every moment that we can.”

NEXT UP

Milwaukee’s next opportunity to do so comes at home on Tuesday night when they host the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks are one of three sub .500 teams Milwaukee plays over its next four games. They also play the Miami Heat in that span and Boylan expects his team to go out and compete with each foe like their spot in the postseason is on the line.

« Our main goal is to just get there [to the playoffs] and be playing as well as we can at the end of the season, » the Bucks coach said. « Wherever we are, we’re going to show up and play. Whoever that team is, we’re going to get out there and compete against them. »

Tip-off of Tuesday’s game against Dallas is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST and you can catch all the action on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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Bucks Working Overtime

The Milwaukee Bucks continue to put distance between themselves and Philadelphia 76ers in the race for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and suddenly, they’re closing in on a higher spot.

They’ve just needed a little extra time to do it.

The Bucks won their fourth straight game on Monday night, surviving another overtime thriller with a 109-108 victory over the Utah Jazz. The win came on the heels of an overtime triumph on Saturday, a 122-114 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute chipped 10 points, five rebounds and a steal, while playing 24 minutes in Saturday’s win. On Monday he added seven points and four rebounds in 20 minutes of action.

The pair of hard-fought extra time wins pushed Milwaukee two games over .500 and seven up on the Sixers for the East’s final playoff spot. Now the Bucks sit just a game behind Boston for the seven seed.


The arrival of guard J.J. Redick has sparked Milwaukee to a 4-1 record in their last five games (Getty Images).

They’re now 4-1 since the arrival of guard J.J. Redick in a trade from the Orlando Magic, with their only loss over that span a one-point defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks in Redick’s debut. But none of the four wins since have been decided until the final minutes either.

« We’re winning close games right now. It’s tough to do in this league, » Redick said. « This team has proven we can win close games and hopefully that will continue. »

Of the four wins, over the course of the current winning streak, two have come against teams currently in the playoff hunt with the other two against sub .500 teams Toronto and Dallas. Luc noted recently that the Bucks must be just as motivated to win those games as they are when they play division rivals.

« It’s for everybody. It’s not just for teams above us, » Luc  said about the team maintaining a high energy level. « You’ve got to play with a sense of urgency whether you play the Magic’s or the Bobcats or you’re playing the Heat. It’s still the NBA. Any team can beat you, so for us, our team, I think when we play with a sense of urgency and we play harder than the other team, you usually give yourself a good chance to win the game. »

That wasn’t the case in Saturday’s win over the Raptors, a team that sits several games behind the Bucks and had lost three straight coming in. Toronto jumped all over the Bucks in the first and went on to score 32 points. They took a lead of 11 points early in the second.

But the Bucks responded with a great offensive attack before the half, shooting 72.2 percent from the field and 2-for-2 from beyond the arc in the second. Milwaukee then dominated the third quarter defensively, forcing four turnovers and blocking two shots while outrebounding the Raptors 14-8 and holding Toronto to 35 percent shooting for the quarter.

However, the Raptors overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth, capped off by an Alan Anderson dunk in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime. In the extra frame, the Bucks outrebounded the Raptors 8-2 and shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe to shut the door on Toronto.

But the key to game was ball movement. Brandon Jennings (11 points) set a new career high with 19 assists. Jennings was joined in double-double performances on the night by forward Ersan Ilyasova, who led all scorers with 29 points and 11 rebounds and center Larry Sanders (13 points, 12 rebounds, five blocked shots).

« We had some good ball movement, » Bucks head coach Jim Boylan said. « The team is playing well together right now. The team is sharing the ball with each other and staying active. The bigs are finding openings. Our guys were delivering the ball to them tonight. It’s a good thing to see. It’s another stage in our development as a team. »

The Bucks continued that development on Monday against a much better team in the Utah Jazz. The teams played relatively even in the first half, as, while the Bucks never managed to grab the lead, they kept Utah from ever pushing the lead higher than nine points.

Thanks to that resilient effort, the Bucks trailed by just three at halftime and they took the game over in the third thanks to stout defense. Milwaukee held Utah to just 17 points on 36.4 percent shooting from the field and forced five turnovers in the third. Luc played all but 2:48 of the third and helped set the tone defensively.


Luc helped the Bucks lock down Utah’s shooters like Gordon Hayward in the 3rd quarter Monday (Getty Images).

Meanwhile, on the offensive end, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis combined to make 10-of-13 shots in the quarter for 24 points. The Bucks tallied 30 points as a team in the third to establish a 10-point lead entering the fourth.

« I know that Oklahoma City puts up some combo numbers, as does Miami, but that was a hell of a backcourt duo putting on quite a show, » Boylan said. « There was a point I was like, ‘This must be a great game to watch if you’re sitting in the stands.’ They were making plays; we were making plays. »

Still Utah showed some resilience of their own and dominated the fourth thanks mostly to the play of their bench. Utah’s reserve crew of Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Gordon Heyward and Demarre Carroll teamed with Paul Milsap to outscore the Bucks 34-24 in the fourth.

After rallying all the way back, the Jazz took a three-point lead on a Burks layup with 2:10 to go. Ellis tied it with a trey and later answered a Milsap jumper with one of his own to once again knot the game. After a Kanter jumper pushed Utah ahead and Ellis followed with a miss, Milsap went to the line with a chance to make it a four-point game with 14 seconds left. But he missed one of two and Jennings buried a trey with six seconds left to send the game to overtime.

The extra session was hotly contested as well, featuring five lead changes. The last came when Redick buried a triple with 47 seconds left to put the Bucks in front by two. Carroll split a trip to the line and Ellis hit a jumper with 14.7 remaining to push Milwaukee’s lead to three.

In the final seconds the Jazz missed a layup and two treys before finally Kanter finally put it in with 1.6 seconds to go, but all the Bucks needed to do was get the ball in and they did to seal the win.

NEXT UP

After winning two straight at home, the Bucks head back out on the road for a three-game trip out west that begins on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

It’s the second meeting of the season between the two teams and Milwaukee will be seeking a little revenge from a 111-85 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers on December 15th at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Luc had 11 points and six rebounds in that loss and he’ll be tasked Wednesday with defending high-flying Clippers forward Blake Griffin.

The game tips off from the Staples Center in Los Angeles shortly after 9:30 p.m. CST and you can catch all the action on FSN Wisconsin.

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Luc, Bucks Hanging Tough At the Break

The 2012-2013 season got off to a tough start for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but as the NBA season hits the All-Star break this week, he and the Milwaukee Bucks are ready for the opportunity to finish strong and make a playoff run.


Luc and the Bucks are in the thick of the playoff rate at the All-Star break (Getty Images).

After missing the first 14 games of the season, which the Bucks split at 7-7, Luc returned to the line-up December 1 and immediately injected a missing element into the Milwaukee lineup. In that first game back, Luc helped the Bucks as part of a strategic defensive substitution by coach Scott Skiles in the final minutes. With his aid, they defeated the Boston Celtics 91-88.

The Bucks went on to win five of Luc’s first seven games back as he quickly worked his way back into the starting line-up at power forward, forging a formidable defensive duo with shot-blocking sensation Larry Sanders in the Bucks frontcourt.

« I haven’t played basketball in eight months. I haven’t practiced, anything. I’ve just been playing games, » Luc said shortly after his return. « I’ve played basketball four times in eight months. I got a long way to go. It’s not where I’d like to be yet. I can play. The hardest thing is the conditioning and my knee. I’m just happy to be out there contributing, wherever I can. »

Despite dealing with lingering soreness in the knee, Luc showed flashes of brilliance in multiple aspects of the game in December. He matched his career high in assists with six against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 14th, then posted a double-double against the Indiana Pacers on December 18 and put up 20 points against the Boston Celtics on December 21. Luc played over 30 minutes in each of those three games, all Bucks’ victories.

However, the Bucks started off 2013 with a four-game losing streak, which left them hovering back around the .500 mark. Subsequently, they parted ways with Skiles and promoted assistant Jim Boylan to interim head coach.

« The team responded pretty well to him. He knows the team and he knows what the city wants, what the guys want., » Luc said of Boylan. « Sometimes it’s good for an assistant coach to come up because the players are more comfortable with the assistant. He understands some of the struggles the players are going through, from an assistant’s perspective. Now he’s the head coach. It’s a good change for the team. Now it’s up to the players to make the best of it. »

The move energized the Bucks initially and they started off the Boylan era with wins in eight of their first 11 games to seize control of their postseason chances as the season passed the halfway mark. But the season took another turn at the end of January as they dropped six of seven games to fall back to the .500 mark.

However they broke a four-game skid with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on the Wednesday before the break and currently hold a four-game lead over the Sixers for the eighth seed in the East.

Game of the Year

The Bucks enter the break on an incredible high note after a thrilling 94-92 victory over the 76ers on Wednesday night, thanks in part to a couple of great hustle plays by Luc in the final seconds, making Milwaukee’s most recent game Luc’s best of the year to date.


Luc’s hustle plays late in Wednesday’s win over Philly sent the Bucks into the break with a win (Getty Images).

The Bucks had lost four games straight with a five-game skid going into the All-Star break as a stark reality as they took on Philadelphia, a team that had been steadily pulling themselves back into the playoff race and sat just three games behind the Bucks in the East standings at the time.

So, Milwaukee desperately needed a win to head into the break on a high note and set the tone for the stretch run.  To top it off, Bucks big man and shot-blocking machine Larry Sanders continued to sit out with back soreness. Lucky for the Bucks, Luc stepped up in the clutch.

The Bucks fell behind early as the 76ers shot 64.7 percent from the field including 2-of-3 from three-point range to race out to a 28-18 lead. Milwaukee methodically chipped away at that lead and trailed by just three going into the final period, setting up for some last minute fireworks.

The lead changed hands five times in the final quarter and the final moments of the game found the Bucks clinging to a 94-92 lead with less than 10 seconds to play. Luc’s final stat line read 10 points on just 3-for-11 shooting with eight rebounds, but what made the game special was what No. 12 did in the final seconds with the game and major momentum for the Bucks on the line.

« Luc is a great defender. They had their bigs out there so Luc was able to really lock in, » Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. « Any kind of breakdowns, he’s helping. Then he was just active driving the ball and making good decisions. His play was instrumental in us being able to claw our way back into the game. »

No. 12 first managed to force a jump ball with a few ticks left by gaining partial possession of a loose ball. Though the Sixers won the tip, giving them the ball with a chance to tie or win the game, Luc managed to deflect a pass from Royal Ivey to Jrue Holiday and then raced to the sidelines before the loose ball went out to swat it into the open court. The play wasted enough time to run out the clock and give Milwaukee a much-needed win.

« There’s a jump ball and crazy stuff can happen. It can get tipped out and somebody can launch a three, and there you go, you lose. Those types of things happen in this league all the time. Credit to Luc. He made a huge play for us. »

The 76ers Jrue Holiday beat Luc in the jump, tipping the ball to Royal Ivey, who then looked to pass the ball back to Holiday who had set up in 3-point range, but Luc acted fast and deflected the pass toward the sideline.  Reacting fast again, Luc then raced toward the sideline and swatted the ball toward the open court near the Bucks basket to keep the clock running and finish the game.

By The Numbers

  • 6 – number of games the Bucks have won this year with Luc playing 30 minutes or more.
  • 7 – total number of games Luc has played 30 minutes or more this season.
  • 7.8 – a career high mark in points per game this season.
  • 16.7 – Luc’s +/- mark in the clutch this season.
  • 40 – Luc’s three-point shooting precentage at home this season.

In Their Words

Former Bucks coach Scott Skiles on Luc’s 2012-2013 debut:

« [Luc] was aggressive and had a nice drive. Being able to put him in late in the game on [Jason] Terry and being able to switch the pick and roll with Pierce, that’s something we haven’t been able to do. »

Frank Madden, Brew Hoop

« Mbah a Moute is still playing his way into form, but there’s something fundamentally enjoyable about watching him chase and harass guys like Ginobili on the defensive end, right? Moreover, his aggressiveness on the offensive end has been a positive (if not always productive) thing. »


Luc has stepped up a notch offensively, but his defense on stars like Kobe hasn’t suffered (Getty Images).

Skiles on Luc’s versatility:

« Luc can guard any of those guys. It’s big for us having him back. »

Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball after the Bucks beat the Miami Heat

« In what may have been his most physical game of the year, Mbah a Moute proved up to the challenge of defending whoever he was tasked with on any given possession, while contributing offensively too. Moute attacked the rim with vigor all night and made the most of opportunities when he found himself open for jumpers. »

Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball:

« One more note on Moute because we don’t talk about him enough: he gets to the line better than anyone else on the team. He took half the shots Jennings did and got to the line twice as much. He doesn’t shy away from contact like Jennings. He doesn’t try to do stupid things in mid-air like Ellis. He just goes up and if there’s a defender there, he takes contact. That’s all it really takes. You don’t always need to get some circus shot off, you can just go to the line. It’ll be fine. »

In His Words

The last several months have brought Luc through a period of adversity that tested him mentally and physically.

Dealing with an injury for the entirety of the lockout shortened 2012 season, then having surgery afterward and working his way back through rehab has given Luc a perspective that he didn’t have before. Above all else, he’s just thrilled to be back on the court.

« It has been a long road. It’s been very, very hard. But it’s been a good learning experience, as is everything that happens in your life. It’s been tough. I’d never dealt with anything like it before. Just the difficulty of the injury – it wasn’t just ankle break that just gets fixed and then you come back. It was patellar tendon surgery. There’s a bunch of different results with different people. But now I’m feeling good. »

A Throwback Split

The Milwaukee Bucks donned their throwback uniforms this weekend and continued their push toward the All-Star with a split in games against the Knicks and Magic.


After losses to the Bulls and Knicks, Luc and the Bucks got on track against Orlando (Getty Images).

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and the Bucks strengthened their hold the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference by knocking off the Orlando Magic 107-98 on Saturday. It was a solid bounce back effort from 96-86 loss to the Knicks on Friday, in which they were held under 90 points for the second straight game.

Following Wednesday’s loss to the Central Division rival Bulls, the Bucks came out strong on Friday night and found their rhythm early to carry a six-point lead into halftime against the Knicks. The hot start on the road — led by forward Ersan Ilyasova’s 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting at the half — against the team with the second best record in the Eastern Conference was a good sign for Milwaukee.

 

But the Bucks went cold in the second half and shot just 31.7 percent from the field as the Knicks rallied to take the lead and pull away with the win. Luc contributed  our points, three rebounds and an assist despite playing just over 13 minutes due to foul trouble in the losing effort.

Fortunately, Milwaukee got the chance to rebound from Friday’s loss quickly and didn’t waste the opportunity at home. The Bucks took full advantage of the shorthanded Magic who came into the game without guards Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo as well as forward Glen Davis and Milwaukee’s starters outscored Orlando’s 82-67, dominating the first and third quarters on the way to the win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

With the full complement of starters against the Magic’s skeleton crew, the Bucks were able spread the ball around well with four starters scoring more than 16 points while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor as a team. Luc added eight points and grabbed five rebounds while adding a steal and an assist.


The victory over Orlando tightened the Bucks to 1.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics for the seventh seed in the East and they sit just a game behind the Atlanta Hawks for the sixth spot entering the new week.

NEXT UP

The Bucks (25-21) open the week just 3.5 games behind the Division leading Chicago Bulls with 36 games left to play in the regular season.

To improve their position, the Bucks will have to be road warriors as they begin a two-game trip West on Tuesday night in Denver against the Nuggets. Twenty-four hours later they’ll be in Utah to take on the Jazz.

Both games are scheduled for 8 p.m. CST tip-off and each will be broadcast on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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Bucks Moving Up in East

Since the start of January, the Milwaukee Bucks have been consistently climbing the standings and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has been at the center of it on both ends of the court.


Luc nearly had a double-double against the Warriors with nine boards and eight points (Getty Images).

Including Tuesday night’s 117-90 drubbing of the Detroit Pistons, the Bucks have won five of their last six games and they’re doing it with a potent offense, averaging better than 108 points per game.

Milwaukee’s success of late has allowed them to surge to the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, just a half game behind the Atlanta Hawks and five games behind the East lead Miami Heat entering play on Wednesday night.

Over the course of those past six games, Luc has been helping the Bucks’ cause by doing a little bit of everything. He’s averaging just under six points per game and five rebounds per game while also dishing out 1-3 assists in each contest and playing lockdown defense on opposing stars.

In Detroit on Tuesday, the Bucks limited the Pistons to just 90 points, keyed by a second quarter in which Detroit managed just 14 points to Milwaukee’s 33.

That quarter was a turning point for the Bucks, who trailed after one, and allowed them to take a 10-point lead into halftime. They cruised from there as Luc chipped in two points, four rebounds and three assists.

Tuesday’s win over the Central Division rival Pistons came on the heels of a huge Bucks win Saturday over one of the West’s top seeds, the Golden State Warriors.

Luc nearly tallied a double-double in the 109-102 victory with eight points and nine rebounds to go along with two assists.


The scoring load was carried, however, by former Warrior Monta Ellis and his Bucks backcourt mate Brandon Jennings, who each tallied 20 points.

The 1-2 scoring punch allowed Milwaukee to dominate the third quarter and hold off the three-point onslaught of Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack in the fourth to collect the win.

Those two victories helped away the bitter taste of Friday’s 113-108 loss to Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks built a nine-point halftime lead against Cleveland, but Kyrie Irving led the Cavs back with 24 of his 35 points coming in the second half.

Luc scored nine points while grabbing three rebounds and a steal in just 18 minutes on the court in the loss. His frontcourt mate Ersan Ilyasova poured in a season-high 30 points, but it wasn’t enough.

Still the way the Bucks bounced back to beat Golden State the next night and Detroit just days later showed an uncanny resolve that playoff teams must have. Milwaukee has not lost back-to-back games since coach Jim Boylan took the reigns on January 8th.

NEXT UP

The Bucks are back at home on Wednesday night as they host another Central Division foe, the Chicago Bulls.

The game marks the fourth and final meeting this season between the two teams. Milwaukee currently leads the season series two games to one, with both wins coming at the United Center in Chicago. The Bulls won the only meeting in Milwaukee so far this season, and the Bucks will be looking to avoid a repeat of that as they seek to win the season series from Chicago.

Wednesday’s tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CST from the BMO Harris Bradley Center and the game can be seen on FS Milwaukee.

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Two Big Weekend Wins

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and his teammates bucked a disturbing trend this weekend to pick up two big wins and get back above .500.

After allowing more than 100 points in double digit losses to New Orleans and San Antonio last week, the Bucks got their defense back going to hold the Charlotte Bobcats and Brooklyn Nets to 93 and 88 points respectively. The defensive success was a key component to both wins.


Luc spent most of his time against Joe Johnson and won the battle on both ends of the court (Getty Images).

Holding Brooklyn down in a 97-88 win was especially gratifying. The Nets came into the game as one of the NBA’s best offensive teams, but the Bucks dominated them defensively on Sunday.

The Nets jumped out to an early 11-2 lead on 5-of-7 from the floor, but after a Milwaukee timeout, Brooklyn shot just 20 percent (8-of-40) from the field for the rest of the half and tallied only 31 points, allowing Milwaukee to take a 17-point lead into halftime.

« We turned it up and once we did we were able to get stops, » Luc said. « It helped that they were missing shots early and they kind of lost their confidence on their shot.  They tried to drive and we were there to help.  We shut it out and that really helped us. »

The Nets also had trouble hanging on to the ball, which the Bucks exploited as Brooklyn committed 20 turnovers.  Luc played a season high 28 minutes in just his fifth game since his return from offseason surgery.

Coach Scott Skiles gave Luc the opportunity to get back in the habit of guarding multiple positions and was key in holding guard Joe Johnson to a season low 6 points, just two nights after he went off on Golden State for a season high 32.

« Luc can guard any of those guys, » Skiles said. « It’s big for us having him back. »

Luc was also a crucial piece on the offensive end. Despite the Bucks establishing a lead of as many as 29 points in the third quarter, the Nets surged back into the game and trailed by just eight when Deron Williams hit a three with under five minutes to go. No. 12 answered with a jumper with 4:25 remaining to make it 85-75 Bucks.

Brooklyn scored the next four points, but Milwaukee found another answer and after Luc hit his second jumper of the quarter to put the Bucks up 10 with 54 seconds to go, the game was out of reach.

No. 12 finished with nine points, five rebounds and two steals in the victory, on the heels of a similar game against the Bobcats in Milwaukee’s 108-93 drubbing of the Cats on Friday. Luc put up another nine-point night in that one, adding 3 rebounds an assist and a steal. Both Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball, and Frank Madden of Brew Hoop lauded the Prince for the way he attacked Bobcats rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

« Mbah a Moute attacked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist like he was a fifth grader in a eighth grade pickup game, » Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt then went into detail about just how good Luc was against one of the season’s top draft picks, Kidd-Gilchrist, a player who many believe is a rising star in the league.

The Bobcats rookie found himself defending Milwaukee’s forward in the post on three separate occasions in the second quarter. The first time, Mbah a Moute stepped towards the middle, faked once, faked again and when he got both Kidd-Gilchrist and another defender in the air, went underneath for a layup.

On the next possession, he air balled a hook shot, sure, but minutes later he posted, faced up, posted again and got Gilchrist in the air for the second time. Again, Mbah a Moute stepped underneath and finished, this time drawing a foul as well for a 3-point play.

He wasn’t done. Milwaukee would go back to the mismatch in the fourth. On this final post possession, Mbah a Moute took one dribble, knocking the rookie wing back a step. With him on his toes, Mbah a Moute drop stepped again, right into the defender, went up for a shot and drew another foul. This looked like a guy who feels pretty comfortable with his back to the basket and wants to take advantage of his opportunities.


No. 12 attacked the basket with ease and effectiveness against the Bobcats (Getty Images).

Luc has been widely praised for his aggressiveness in the post offensively since his return to the line-up earlier this month. But he noted that post play has always been a part of his game and that the Bucks’ stable backcourt has allowed him to use those traits more effectively this season.

« I’ve always had a post game, » Luc said. « The good thing is that Coach is trusting me with that now.  It’s good.  I feel like I can take advantage of some small guys down there, use my size and score against them.  I can go down there, get someone in foul trouble or get a basket or have a mismatch. »

Coming off a season where he started 22 of 43 games, Luc hasn’t yet entered the starting lineup for Milwaukee, but he’s ok with that. Unlike previous years when there was a dearth of talent in the Bucks’ second unit, Milwaukee has a full roster of talented players now and Luc is happy to be a part of that.

« This team has a lot of depth, » Luc said. « It’s not an easy job on Coach. But I think guys have to be ready all the time because you never know when your name is going to be called. »

For Luc, part of coming off the bench is also about making steady and meticulous progress from his injury. After missing training camp, the preseason and the first 14 games of the regular season, Luc is trying to get back into basketball shape and top form, all while trying to fins his fit in the Milwaukee system again.

« I’m just figuring it out, » he said after Friday’s win. « I haven’t played basketball in eight months. I haven’t practiced, anything. I’ve just been playing games. I’ve played basketball four times in eight months. I got a long way to go. It’s not where I’d like to be yet. I can play. The hardest thing is the conditioning and my knee. I’m just happy to be out there contributing, wherever I can. »

NEXT UP

The Bucks returned home after Sunday’s game where they will get a day of rest and a day of practice before their next game on Wednesday.

They host the Sacramento Kings in that one, looking to turn their two wins this weekend into a lasting streak. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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