BUCKS BEAT: Bogut set to play Bucks for first time

2013-03-07T23:50:00Z 2013-03-08T10:28:55Z BUCKS BEAT: Bogut set to play Bucks for first timeGERY WOELFEL gwoelfel@journaltimes.com Journal Times

It will be pretty much business as usual for Andrew Bogut when he and his Golden State teammates play the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night.

The game in Oaklad, Calif., will mark the first time Bogut will compete against his former team since being dealt to the Warriors last March in a trade that brought the Bucks guard Monta Ellis.

When asked if playing against his old teammates would hold any special meaning, Bogut said, “Not really. It’ll be a tough game. It’ll be the second of our back-to-back games; we play Houston on Friday night. We just got to keep rolling and get into the playoffs.

“But as far as that (the Bucks game), it’s a different team than when I was there.”

Indeed, the Bucks have made several changes since Bogut’s departure. Ellis has entrenched himself at shooting guard; Larry Sanders is now starting at center and three of team's key reserves — J.J. Redick, Ekpe Udoh and John Henson — never played a single minute with Bogut.

Bogut said he still stays in contact with several of former teammates and has also followed the Bucks’ fortunes. He applauded management’s recent move to acquire veteran shooting guard J.J. Redick from Orlando. In that deal, the Bucks sent guards Beno Udrih and Doron Lamb and forward Tobias Harris to the Magic.

The two key figures of the trade — Redick and Harris — have performed well for their respective teams. Redick is averaging 13.3 points while shooting 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range and Harris, who is just 20, is averaging 16.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.

“The J.J. Redick trade was a great deal for the Bucks,” Bogut said in a telephone interview Thursday. “They lost Tobias Harris, who is going to be a very good player, but to get a player like Redick was huge for them.”

Bogut didn’t play a game last season after he was dealt to the Warriors because of severe ankle issues. He has appeared in 14 games this season, being slowed by ankle and back problems.

But Bogut, who is averaging 6.2 points and 6.7 rebounds, has returned to the starting lineup and has provided the Warriors with a much-needed defensive presence.

In the last two games, Bogut, an outstanding help and off-ball defender, helped limit Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins to five points on 2 of 10 shooting and held Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas to three points on 1 of 7 shooting.

PASSING WITH FLYING COLORS: Brandon Jennings is averaging a pedestrian 6.6 assists a game this season.

In the last three games, though, he’s looked like the second coming of John Stockton.

Jennings totaled 48 assists in that three-game span — or an average of 16 a game.

Equally impressive, Jennings has done a terrific job of protecting the basketball. He turned the ball over only seven times in those games, meaning his assist-to-turnover was an off-the-charts 6.9-to-1.

ILYASOVA CLICKING ON ALL CYLINDERS: After a slow start in which former Bucks coach Scott Skiles brought him off the bench and minimized his minutes, Ersan Ilyasova has emerged as the Bucks best all-around player.

He has played particuarily well in the last eight games, having scored at least 19 points in five of them while connecting on 11 of 26 treys (44 percent). Ilyasova has also done a nice job on the boards, grabbing 7.2 a game in that span.

PLAYOFF BOUND: Barring a monumental collapse, the Bucks will be in the playoffs for just the second time since the 2005-2006 season when Terry Stotts was the head coach.

The Bucks, who are 30-29, are 7½ games in front of their nearest challengers — Philadelphia and Toronto — for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. What’s more, the Bucks are just three games out of the sixth seed, currently held by Chicago.

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