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News » Think outside the arc Bucks sought, got three-point men

Think outside the arc Bucks sought, got three-point men

Think outside the arc  Bucks sought, got three-point men By CHARLES F. GARDNER

Auburn Hills, Mich. - It's not by accident that the Milwaukee Bucks are shooting three-pointers at a higher percentage this season.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles said he and general manager John Hammond were intent on acquiring players who could knock down the three and stretch opposing defenses.

The season is not quite to the one-quarter mark, but the early results are encouraging for the Bucks , who rank fourth in the league in three-point percentage (39.1%), fourth in three-pointers made per game (8.76) and fifth in three-pointers attempted per game (22.41).

And they have done it without sharpshooter Michael Redd, who has been sidelined for all but five games with a left knee injury.

"We wanted to improve our three-point shooting and so far, so good," Skiles said. "Cleveland and Phoenix are two top three-point shooting teams and they have great records.

"But you want to be smart about it, and I feel my guys have been. They're just not out there crazily jacking up threes. We're getting them off dribble penetration, and we're getting some good ones out of early offense."

One of the biggest surprises in the Bucks' perimeter game is first-round draft pick Brandon Jennings, who struggled with his shot during the preseason.

But that changed dramatically when the regular season began.

Jennings has attempted a team-high 84 three-pointers and has converted 40 for a glittering 47.6% mark, tying him for ninth in the National Basketball Association in that category.

"I feel like I shoot better long-distance because I put a lot of arch on my shot," Jennings said. "I use my legs on that three-point shot. When I get into the key, I fall short a little bit and don't use my legs as much.

"They're falling for me right now. Who knows if I'll be able to keep it up or not? But the main thing is get your rest and save your legs for those three-point shots."

Washington coach Flip Saunders compared Jennings to Tiny Archibald before the Bucks played the Wizards on Wednesday, when Jennings went 2 for 8 from beyond the arc but hit a clutch three to tie the score late in the game.

Milwaukee was just 9 for 27 from three-point range in its 104-102 loss to the Wizards.

"When he smells the popcorn of the regular season, he shoots a lot better," Saunders said of Jennings. "I think he's a decent shooter. Is he going to shoot 45% from the three-point line for the year as a rookie? I doubt it; most rookies don't do it. I don't care how good of a shooter you are.

"But right now he's playing with a great amount of energy and a lot of confidence. He thinks right now when he shoots it, it's going in, and that's part of the battle."

Jennings is one of three Bucks players shooting 40% or better from three-point distance. Charlie Bell is hitting 42.1% (24 of 57) and Carlos Delfino has connected on 40.9% of his attempts (27 of 66). Ersan Ilyasova also has a respectable 37.3% mark (22 of 59).

Jennings, Delfino and Ilyasova all were acquired during the off-season, along with second-round pick Jodie Meeks, who made his reputation as an outside shooter at Kentucky.

"We've got guys who can spread the floor," said guard Luke Ridnour, who has made 15 three-pointers in 42 tries. "I think the best threes to shoot are the dribble-penetration and kick.

"You've got Ersan off the pick-and-roll with the step-back three. You have Charlie in the corner and Carlos in the corner; those are really good shots. Everyone is shooting it with confidence."

Phoenix ranks first in the league in three-point percentage at 43.6%, while Cleveland is second at 42.7%. The Bucks are fourth by percentage points but in a virtual tie for third with Toronto and Sacramento.

Last season, the Bucks made 36.3% of their three-point attempts.

The only teams making more threes per game than the Bucks thus far are Phoenix (10.11 per game), Orlando (10.05) and New York (9.42).

"If you have a loose 4 on 3 and a good three-point shooter with his feet set taking a three, that's a good shot in the NBA right now," Skiles said. "It's one of the reasons we've been able to win as many games as we have, maybe the main reason, because we've been able to make the three."

Mbah a Moute practices: Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was able to take part in the Bucks' practice session at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday as the team prepared for Friday night's game against the Detroit Pistons.

The 6-foot-8 Mbah a Moute is close to returning after missing the last nine games with a left foot strain.

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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