Brandon Jennings vs. Rodney Stuckey
To be polite, I’ll just describe Stuckey’s performance against the Bucks point guards in the pre-season as dominant. His size and strength posed an incredible challenge for both Jennings and Luke Ridnour. Stuckey is not a very good outside shooter, but is very adept at finishing in the lane. Through two games Stuckey has attempted 14 free throws and will surely be looking to attack Jennings. Jennings had a very strong opening game against the Sixers, but it will be important for him not to fall in love with the three point shot. He was 2-5 Friday, but ultimately, he’ll have more success getting in the paint and dishing to the Bucks big men.
Michael Redd vs. Ben Gordon
Redd shot 6-17 in the opening night loss to Philadelphia and missed a number of open threes. If he’s able to find the form that once made him as feared a shooter as there was in the NBA he’ll have a huge year with all the open shots Jennings will create for him. Richard Hamilton will miss Saturday night’s game with an ankle injury, opening up the starting spot for the offensive threat Gordon. Fortunately, Gordon is not the sprint machine Hamilton is and will save Redd from having to exert that extra effort. Gordon can score with virtually anyone, but is most dangerous from behind the arc. If Redd can limit his three point attempts and make him put it on the ground it will serve him well.
Carlos Delfino vs. Tayshaun Prince
Prince missed some time in the exhibition season with a toe injury, but appears to be in working order after playing 44 minutes against Oklahoma City. Prince has been a lockdown defender since entering the league, so don’t expect much out of Delfino with Prince’s pterodactyl arms in his face. Offensively, Prince is a good passer and can knock down the three if you leave him open. He’ll have a major size advantage on Delfino, but I suspect Gordon and Stuckey will be doing the primary damage on offense.
Kurt Thomas vs. Charlie Villanueva
The “prototype four” against the “stretch four”. Thomas does his operating fifteen feet and in, while we all know Charlie V. likes to hover and slash rather than bang. Dan from PistonPowered had this to say about Charlie V.’s last game:
Charlie Villanueva looked uncomfortable whenever I happened to look up, and the number confirmed it – 3-of-12 for eight points. He still might be shaking the rust off after missing most of the preseason with an injury.
I’d say that just sounds like one of Chuck’s off nights. Suffice to say consistency has never been Villanueva’s strong suit. I’d expect him to play a complementary role to the Pistons guards tonight though, as that is where Detroit’s biggest mismatch will be on offense.
Andrew Bogut vs. Ben Wallace
Bogut had his hands full with Sam Dalembert’s length on Friday, Ben Wallace doesn’t pose that same threat. Wallace has looked quite spry through the pre-season and first two games, but he’s susceptible one on one defensively. A potential problem for Bogut may arise when he tries to do work face up. Wallace is too quick for Bogut and could rack up the steals in those scenarios. Wallace was giving hell to Bucks guards on traps and in a zone in their last pre-season game at the BC, so the Pistons may throw that look at the Bucks again.
Hakim Warrick, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, Charlie Bell and Luke Ridnour
Will Bynum, Kwame Brown, Jason Maxiell and Austin Daye
The Pistons have a plethora of physical big men they can bring off the bench to give the Bucks problems, and I didn’t even list Chris Wilcox. Maxiell will likely give the Bucks problems on the offensive boards in the same manner Mareese Speights did for Philadelphia. Bynum is a strong, physical, bowling ball of a point guard who, like Stuckey before him, looks for his shot first. He’ll be a handful for Jennings or Ridnour and can finish in the lane. Ilyasova looked hesitant in the Bucks first game and seems like he just needs to trust his skills on offense. The Bucks could certainly use the help.
Prediction: Bucks 88 – Pistons 83
What better way to get the bad taste of an opening night loss out of the collective mouths of Milwaukee Bucks fans than the home opener on the following night. I’m not going to pick the Bucks every game, but I feel better about this one than I did about the Sixers game. With Rip Hamilton out, the Pistons bench is a bit depleted of perimeter scoring. If the Bucks can knock down their shots and Jennings can give the Bucks something close to what he did Friday, they’ll have a shot.