Parker eases in as Bucks hit winning stride

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Tim Seeman
November 10, 2015

This is more like it.

After a bumpy first week that saw sloppy point guard play and an inability to keep opponents off the board, the Milwaukee Bucks looked like the team everybody expected them to be before the season started, winning four straight games since Nov. 2 to run their record to 4-3.

The defense has been much improved over the four-game win streak: After giving up 346 points in their three losses to open the season (115.3 points per game), the Bucks have only allowed 361 points in their four wins since (90.3 points per game).

Their overall defensive rankings are still in the middle of the pack, but they're trending in the right direction.

Also trending in the right direction? The team's overall health.

Wednesday night's game in Milwaukee against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers saw the return of prized second-year player Jabari Parker—though it wasn't quite what anybody would call triumphant.

He was a step or two behind the action in his 16 minutes and scored just two points, but the slow start was completely understandable considering he had only played in 25 NBA games as a rookie, none of those in the last 11 months as he recovered from a torn ACL.

Parker followed that with six points in 17 minutes against the New York Knicks on Friday, a 99-92 win for the Bucks that avenged a lopsided defeat to the same opponent at home on opening night.

Then in a surprise after head coach Jason Kidd said Parker likely wouldn't play in both games of back-to-backs, the Duke forward got the start Saturday night against the Brooklyn Nets, logging eight points in 24 minutes, including his first action in a fourth quarter.

Player and coach obviously are comfortable with the progress the former has made in his recovery. The easing-in process will probably continue for a few more weeks—I wouldn't expect any big-time scoring performances yet—but it feels like Parker is slightly ahead of schedule in his recovery, which is good news for the team and its fans. I'm sure the player is elated, as well.

Another key contributor who returned from injury Friday night was Parker's frontcourt partner John Henson, who took a few nights off to nurse a sore Achilles.

Coming off the bench against the Knicks, Henson scored 22 points to lead the Bucks and blocked three shots in 23 minutes.

Starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams did miss games after turning his ankle in the first game against the Nets, but a committee of point guards including Tyler Ennis, Jerryd Bayless and Greivis Vasquez has been more than serviceable in relief.

True, the competition wasn't the greatest the NBA has to offer during the last week, but Milwaukee showed definitive signs that it can live up to the hype that built up around the franchise over the summer.

Once the team reaches full health with the return of Carter-Williams and the season debut of O.J. Mayo (both are questionable for tonight's game against the Boston Celtics), we'll get to see all the Bucks have to offer.

There truly is reason to be excited for pro basketball in Wisconsin again—even as the Badgers open their regular season Friday night against Western Illinois.

Tim Seeman is a sports writer/page designer for The Gazette.

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