Kings hope to stop the bleeding vs. Bucks

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Kings hope to stop the bleeding vs. Bucks

March 23, 2011

KINGS (17-52) vs.
MILWAUKEE (28-41)

Coverage begins at 5 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks are relying on a balanced attack as they look to make a surprising push for the playoffs.

The Bucks try to win their third in a row Wednesday night when they host a Sacramento Kings team coming off its most lopsided defeat in two years.

After averaging 76.7 points and 38.9 percent shooting during a three-game skid, Milwaukee (28-41) has totaled 210 points and shot 50.3 percent in timely back-to-back victories. The Bucks, tied with Charlotte for ninth place in the Eastern Conference - two games back of Indiana for the final playoff spot - have made a point of spreading the scoring around in the last two contests.

RELATED: NBA conference standings

Carlos Delfino led the way with 30 points in a 100-95 win over New York on Sunday, while John Salmons scored 22 and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute added 19. Brandon Jennings (14) and Andrew Bogut (13) also chipped in offensively as every Bucks starter scored in double figures for a second consecutive game.

Milwaukee is 5-1 this season when that happens.

"We are sharing the ball," said Delfino, who has totaled 56 points and shot 17 of 26 in his last two games after scoring 18 points on 7 of 23 from the floor in his previous three. "We move the ball and try to play together and when we do it, it's better for everyone."

Milwaukee has been dealing with a thin bench, but that issue might soon be resolved.

Guard Michael Redd plans to Friday in New York after missing the last 14 months following knee surgery, while the Bucks could also get back forwards Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova this week. Those players could add much-needed depth to a bench that scored two points against the Knicks.

While Milwaukee seems to be coming around offensively despite ranking last in the league in points per game (91.5) and field-goal percentage (42.7), the club's biggest strength is still defense.

The Bucks are third in scoring defense at 92.6 points and have held eight of their last nine opponents to 95 or fewer. They had no trouble at the defensive end in Sacramento on Dec. 23, limiting the Kings to 36.5 percent shooting in an 84-79 victory.

Earl Boykins led all scorers with 19 points off the bench for Milwaukee, winner of four of five in this series.

Unlike the Bucks, defense has been a big problem lately for Sacramento, which lost 132-92 to Chicago on Monday.

The Kings (17-52), yielding a league-worst 110.3 points in 11 games this month, allowed the Bulls to shoot an opponent season-high 61.3 percent. It was Sacramento's worst defeat since losing 129-81 to Phoenix on Feb. 2, 2009.

REWIND: Kings can't hang with high-flying Bulls

Lack of defense wasn't the only culprit in the Kings' ninth loss in 11 games. The club turned the ball over 22 times, leading to 36 fast-break points for the Bulls.

Rookie DeMarcus Cousins had a game-high eight turnovers.

"We have to be stronger with the ball," said Kings point guard Beno Udrih, who had 13 points, five assists and three turnovers. "Pass it when you see the man open right away instead of holding it too long."

Amid the sloppy offensive performance, guard Marcus Thornton had another solid game, finishing with a team-high 25 points with only two giveaways. Acquired from New Orleans on Feb. 23, Thornton has averaged 22.6 points in his last 12 games.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days.