Bucks taking Hornets seriously for Game 7
ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) -- For nine playoff games, the Milwaukee Bucks were the gang that couldn't shoot straight.
Now they're keeping a straight face despite coach George Karl's forecast of fun and frolic whenever his shooters finally found their postseason touch.
"If we get too excited with our victory last night and comfortable with what we did last night then we're going to get beat here in Game 7," Bucks forward Scott Williams said Friday. "So, we keep an even keel.
"We're excited that we fought back from the elimination game last night. But it wasn't a celebrating victory for us by any stretch of the imagination. Guys are still focused that it takes one more game to win this series."
The Bucks hardly smiled during their light practice Friday, 12 hours after they beat Charlotte in Game 6 when Sam Cassell, Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson combined for 85 points to force a Game 7 Sunday in Milwaukee.
It was the first time since the playoffs began that the "Big Three" lived up to their nickname.
Cassell and Robinson had career playoff highs with 33 and 29 points, respectively, and Allen added 23, including a 3-pointer that put the dagger in the Hornets' hearts.
"Last night's game was a big win," Karl said. "It took a lot of guts and courage, all those intangibles. But we can't feel very good for a long period of time because Charlotte's a great basketball team. I think they've underachieved a great deal during the year and they're showing they're one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference right now. The series is very equal in a lot of ways.
"And what turns the tide Sunday, I hope it's the homecourt, but it's probably going to be some player stepping forward. It may be a bench player, it may be a surprise player."
Certainly, the Bucks now know better than to take the Bradley Center for granted. They failed to defend their homecourt Tuesday and were forced to steal one on the road.
"A Game 7 in the homecourt is a statistical advantage. But that's all it is, only statistical," Karl said. "And there will be some juice and some confidence that comes with it. But we're still going to have to play a basketball game and I think Charlotte's a mature enough team to understand that those fans can't block shots, those fans can't rebound the ball."
Several Bucks admitted after losing Game 5 that they had counted on the crowd to carry them. After all, they hadn't lost at home in two months.
"We didn't have urgency," Allen said.
So, the mood Friday was very businesslike, not a lot of joking around.
"We're definitely not happy and satisfied now just because we've tied the series up," Robinson said. "Like George said, the series doesn't start until somebody wins on somebody else's court. They came and won on our court, we went down there and beat them on theirs. And now it's going to be a big-time game coming up Sunday."
"It should be a barn burner," Hornets coach Paul Silas concurred.
It will be a new experience, too.
The Hornets have never reached the Eastern Conference finals and the Bucks haven't advanced past the semifinals since 1986.
"It's a seven-game series. You can't get happy until the seventh game is over and you're up 4-3 and they go home," Bucks center Ervin Johnson said.
The Hornets are trying to figure out how to get Jamal Mashburn back on track -- he was 0-for-8 in the second half -- and devising ways to disrupt the "Big Three" once again. But they don't lack for confidence.
"We've beaten them before on their homecourt," Baron Davis said. "And now we have to go do it again."
The mood in Charlotte was glum Friday, but David Wesley said the Hornets remained confident in their ability to win the series. After all, they've beaten the Bucks six times this season, including three in Milwaukee.
"More important, we beat them in the playoffs there," Wesley said. "And it wasn't that long ago. That's important. So, we know we can beat them."