Editor's note: Four teams face elimination on Thursday in Game 6 of their respective first-round playoff series. ESPN's Dr. Jack Ramsay pays a housecall to prescribe advice for one of those teams, the ...
... Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks trail 3-2 in their series against the Nets and face elimination from the playoffs with another loss on Thursday. They've demonstrated the capacity to win, but must get their "A" game in place in Game 6 to stay alive.
The Bucks score best against New Jersey with a small lineup -- some combination involving Sam Cassell, Gary Payton, Tim Thomas, Toni Kukoc, Anthony Mason, Desmond Mason and Michael Redd. The problem with that strategy is that it weakens Milwaukee on the glass, where it gave up a 54-40 rebounding advantage (17 offensive) to the Nets in Game 5 and an average deficit of over nine rebounds a game.
Since Game 1, the Bucks have done a better job in transition defense, which has limited the Nets' fastbreaks and kept the pace of the game comfortable for them. But Milwaukee's halfcourt offense has lacked crisp execution, and most of its scores have come through one-on-one plays for Payton, Cassell or Kukoc.
The Bucks can't afford to get hammered on the boards. When coach George Karl uses his "small ball" tactic, then all five players must rebound. In their Game 4 win, the Bucks outrebounded the Nets 43-41, with Desmond Mason leading the team with eight boards. Three other players had six each.
Then, in transition, the Bucks must keep the ball out of Jason Kidd's hands as much as possible, and "pinch" him with a second defender when Kidd has the ball in the backcourt. Both tactics will help to limit the Nets' quick breaks. If the Bucks keep the Nets in halfcourt sets, they're in good shape, since the Nets don't have a strong post-up game, either.
On offense, the Bucks must take advantage of "opportunity" quick breaks of their own, but mostly they must move the ball better in halfcourt. There's too much back-down dribbling by both Cassell and Payton. Simple ball reversal at least once a possession almost always guarantees a good shot. By doing that, the Bucks will get good scoring chances for everyone -- including Redd and both Masons -- which the team needs desperately.
Dr. Jack Ramsay, who is an NBA analyst for ESPN, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.