April 27, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) A win at the buzzer kept the Milwaukee Bucks alive in the playoffs for at least one more game.

If the rebuilding blueprint goes according to plan in Milwaukee, the impact of the rousing victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 could last for years to come.

The postseason has been a lesson in perseverance for the young, feisty Bucks - a microcosm of sorts for the rest of the year. This season has already been a success, regardless of what happens in Game 5 on Monday in Chicago.

''For a lot of guys, it's their first playoff experience,'' said guard O.J. Mayo, whose six years in the NBA qualifies the guard as a Milwaukee old-timer. ''You have to understand how to win, how much attention you have to pay to the details to win the game.''

There are no stars nearly close to the level of LeBron James, let alone Derrick Rose, in Milwaukee. No deep roster led by veterans, like in Atlanta.

The Bucks are headlined by up-and-coming talent, but mentored by a handful of experienced NBA players.

Mayo, point guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Jared Dudley each have at least six years of experience coming off the bench.

Zaza Pachulia, an 11-year veteran, would be coming off the bench, too, if he wasn't thrust into the starting job at midseason following the release of Larry Sanders following a suspension for violating the NBA's drug policy.

All year long, those veterans have helped shepherd fledgling stars like 20-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo and 23-year-old Michael Carter-Williams - both second-year players.

''You can only have so many moral victories,'' said Dudley, who threw the perfect inbounds pass to Bayless that lead to the winning layup at the buzzer in Game 4 on Saturday.

''This was more of a veteran game,'' Dudley added after Game 4. ''All the vets were in at that time. It's something you have to show the young guys.''

Mayo was also on the floor with Bayless and Dudley at the time. They have been important members of a Milwaukee reserve corps that has sparked run after run against Chicago.

Mayo can hit 3s. Bayless' defense on Rose late in Game 4 led to a steal by teammate Khris Middleton that set up Bayless' winner.

Dudley is the prototypical blue-collar player that every successful team needs. Bothered by a sore back late in the season, Dudley has been a sparkplug in the playoffs with his perimeter shooting and scrappy play on the defensive end.

''So they're very comfortable, and they're also a veteran group, so they know how to play and they understand the situation,'' coach Jason Kidd said Sunday at the team's suburban Milwaukee training facility. ''So there's no panic.''

Kidd espouses that philosophy, too, with his mainly calm sideline demeanor. Team play is of the utmost importance to Kidd, and the bench is just as important as the starting five.

Antetokounmpo, Carter-Williams and Middleton, a third-year player, are key pieces for Milwaukee's long-term future.

So is Jabari Parker, the 20-year-old forward whose rookie season ended in December with a left knee injury. Third-year big man John Henson, 24, is having a breakout series against the Bulls with his energetic play in the paint on both ends of the court.

But the key to the better-than-expected rebuilding season has been defense and depth.

Those qualities have helped carry the team through the midyear losses of Sanders and Parker; and the nearly monthlong tailspin while the Bucks got adjusted to new point guard Carter-Williams following the February trade deadline.

The Bucks forced 28 turnovers on Saturday, dictating play against the Bulls.

''We've got to set the tone on Monday where we're the aggressor,'' said Chicago's Pau Gasol, a 13-year veteran. ''Right now, we're letting them dictate a lot of what's happening.''

Regardless of what happens against Chicago, the young Bucks have had a postseason to build upon for the future.

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