Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 2/2/12
MILWAUKEE Don't look now, but the Milwaukee Bucks are one of the hottest teams in the National Basketball Association.A stunning 105-97 victory Wednesday over Miami gave Milwaukee its first three-game winning streak of the season and victories in six of the last eight games. Included in that stretch are two victories over the Heat and another over the Lakers, arguably two of the best teams in the league.More surprising is that the Bucks have won four of their last five despite playing without their star center, Andrew Bogut, who is sidelined for the next 8-12 weeks with a fractured left ankle, leaving Milwaukee without one of its best weapons and lacking size against some of the best players in the game."We don't have a guy in the lineup over 6-foot-9," said forward Mike Dunleavy, Jr. "We thought we'd be a really good team with him so it's a little surprising in some ways that with him going down, we've been able to hold the fort down. Guys are playing hard and we've been able to defend and make shots. It's a fun group to be with."With Bogut out, the Bucks have struggled inside, especially on the offensive glass but Drew Gooden has stepped up in surprising fashion, averaging 18 points and 7.8 rebounds in his last five games. Ersan Ilyasova has been a force, too, pulling down 10 boards a game.On offense, though, things are even more impressive. The Bucks are scoring at a surprising clip, averaging 102.6 points in their last five games while holding their opponents to just 94.8 per night. What's been the key? Unselfish basketball. On Wednesday, the Bucks recorded assists on 30 of 39 baskets and during this most recent stretch, they're averaging 24 assists a night and have had help on 62 percent of their made baskets.That unselfishness and willingness to work the ball around to find the right shot has been the catalyst to Milwaukee's improvement.When we share the ball we play well, Ilyasova said. We move the ball from one side to the other side, and we win the game. Especially against really good clubs like the Los Angeles Lakers and now Miami. We all know we need to share the ball well and play smart defensively.In Bogut's absence, point guard Brandon Jennings has put the team on his shoulders. He has scored at least 20 in eight of his last nine games (24.3 pointsgame) and against the Heat, he was an almost unstoppable force with 31 points 21 of them from beyond the three-point arc.Jennings knows, though, that there is a long way to go.Its really big the fact that were coming off two big wins, but its still early," Jennings said, "Weve got a division game against Detroit and we cant take them lightly at home. Usually theyre always beating us at their house so we have to go in there with the mindset that we need to win. Then its a dog fight on Saturday against Chicago.The Bucks now have an excellent chance to return to the .500 mark for the first time since dropping to 2-2 after a Jan. 2 loss at Denver. They travel to Detroit (4-20) Friday night before returning to Milwaukee for a rematch with the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls.Much like the Lakers game, this was a great win," head coach Scott Skiles said. "The guys played great, we deserved to win and we got it. But weve got to go to Detroit and win a game and make this a really good win."We have a chance now, our first one to get to .500. We need to take advantage of that.
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