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Respecting Skiles, NBA beginning to fear the deer, Salmons' spirituality

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CNNSI: Skiles the league's most underappreciated coach
Frank Hughes gives Scott Skiles some well-deserved respect...no argument here.  If you want to talk about John Hammond's best moves as a GM, I still say it starts with hiring Skiles as his partner in crime.  It's not always ideal for the coach to play a major role in personnel decisions, but Hammond and Skiles seem to have developed a good understanding about what kind of players they need to win games--and how to get them on a reasonable budget.  Thankfully the rest of the league seems to be noticing as well.  Skiles won East coach of the month honors in February and the always-on-point Kelly Dwyer has him narrowly ahead of Jerry Sloan and Scott Brooks for COY honors.

One NBA insider said Skiles comes up with some of the most creative play-calling in the league and has a firm handle on the mismatches that give Milwaukee an advantage. He has handled Jennings masterfully, even as the rookie has struggled with his shot for a while. And Skiles has Andrew Bogut playing so well that he looks like the league's next great center.

Courtside Analyst: Don't let the weak schedule fool you
Ty offers some reassurance that the Bucks' strong play since the break has been more than just the benefits of a weak schedule.  Here's a sample to whet your appetite:

The Bucks winning percentage in the last 12 games is +.289 higher than the winning percentage you would expect an average NBA team to achieve against the very same schedule, meaning the Bucks "Relative Winning Percentage" (as I call it) since the All Star break is roughly.685%. To put that another way, since the All-Star break the Bucks have played like a team you would expect to win 56.5 games over the course of an 82 game season. Very, very good.

Hollinger: Bucks 11th in latest power rankings
John Hollinger explains why he has the streaking Bucks ahead of the Mavs (winners of 13 straight) in his power rankings.  Marc Stein also had them 11th, but that was before the Celtics game.

Would I take Dallas to beat them in a series?
No. Dallas won both meetings versus Milwaukee but by the smallest of margins (one in overtime, the other by a single point). Because both contests happened before the Bucks' recent rejuvenation, I'd lean toward Milwaukee in a neutral-site series. The Bucks are unquestionably the East's most dangerous low seed heading into the playoffs.

Whoa. 

Fanhouse: Fear the Deer
Ziller and Co. have the Bucks 9th in their latest rankings. Plus, some more level for Bogut's defense.  Also, it seems like everyone's latching onto the "Fear the Deer" slogan, but that's been around for a while, right?  Not sure where I first heard it.

Andrew Bogut has been a flat-out beast of late, averaging 3.7 blocks per game over the past 10, and blocking a monstrous six percent of all opponent shots on the season, good for fourth in the league. If not for Mr. Dwight Howard, this dude'd be a legit All-Defense first-teamer. He'll have to be content with the second team, assuming voters list Tim Duncan as a forward.

Woelfel: Spiritual Salmons helping Bucks find playoff promised land
Gery Woelfel has a long feature on the Bucks' newest difference-maker, including some interesting stuff about the impact of Salmons' faith on his career. Everyone knows about Redd's Christianity, so perhaps it's fitting that the man replacing him is of similar devotion--though as Salmons alludes to, I'd never heard this mentioned about him previously.

"I know when I have gotten interviewed, reporters don't really like talking about God," Salmons said slowly. "I have mentioned God a lot, but I never see it in the papers when I do read the papers.

"Like if I hit a big shot, I'd say it's God," Salmons said. "And I really believe that. I don't believe that was me who made that shot. I believe it was all God's doing. When I'm out there, I rely on him 100 percent."

Nothing Easy: Google search suggestions for "Kevin Garnett"
I saw this just before the Bucks/Celtics game, which is pretty ironic given all the buzz about Brandon Jennings' trash talking of the former MVP after the game. I'm sure this won't be the last we hear of KG and the C's, but then again it says a lot about the Bucks' newfound spunk that their little point isn't afraid to stand up to the big boys. Besides, KG will probably take the high road anyway...