Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 8-3
(Likely) Inactives: Michael Redd, Joe Alexander and Andrew Bogut
San Antonio Spurs (Gregg Popovich) 5-6
(Likely) Inactives: Manu Ginobili
Game time: 7:30 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Tony Parker
Parker returned on Saturday after missing two games with a left ankle sprain. Tony Parker on a sprained left ankle is more dangerous than most guards on two healthy ones, so it’s not like he’ll be an easy guard just because he’s had some injuries this year. His numbers are down a little from a year ago when he had what was likely his best season ever. The fact that the question can seriously be posed as to whether he’s taken the reins on this team from Tim Duncan says a lot about his talent. Jennings has faced some talented point guards thus far, but hasn’t faced one with Parker’s scorer mentality. He gets in the paint and scores more than most. The back-and-forth battle between these two should be worth the price of admission, Jennings has been nearly unconscious all season long. It’s very safe to say he’s outperformed Parker even. In fact, this seems like the very type of game Jennings will bring just a little bit extra for.
Charlie Bell vs. Keith Bogans
Ahh, our old friend Keith Bogans. Bogans is another guy brought on by the Spurs to shoot corner threes when Duncan gets doubled teamed down low. The Bruce Bowen role if you will. Bogans isn’t great in this role though. He’s not as good a three point shooter as he’s often credited and is more of a guard than Bowen was. He likes to try and do some dribbling, attempts at creation, usually without success. Bogans is not a bad defender, but seems more wary of getting physical than Bowen did. He’s also not dirty. Anyway, Bogans is not the great role player Bowen once was, but is serviceable off the bench when the Spurs get healthy. Actually, that’s a pretty good description of Charlie Bell too.
Carlos Delfino vs. Richard Jefferson
I do and I don’t get the Richard Jefferson thing. On one hand, the Spurs got a guy who can give them 20 points a night, slash and hit threes. Plus his deal expires in two years, giving them flexibility down the road and they gave up virtually nothing. On the other, does he really fit in that well with this team? Jefferson’s biggest strength is putting his head down and going to the hoop. He doesn’t have Ginobili’s awareness and operates in the same general area (albeit in a different way) as Tim Duncan. Is it that big of a surprise that he hasn’t played as well as usual so far? If they tell RJ to hang out in the corner and hit open threes when Duncan’s in, doesn’t that belittle his value? He can probably be more effective with Duncan out of the game.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Tim Duncan
Happy as we’ve all been with Ilyasova’s rebounding, he still doesn’t measure up to Tim Duncan. In an off year. Ilyasova’s advantages over Duncan and the other Spurs he’ll be matched-up with are going to be his unresting hands in their faces and his three-point shooting. Much like Jennings, Ersan continues to out-perform whatever expectations I have for him, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him have a big game Monday night, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him struggle against a very smart Spurs team.
Kuran Gadzuromas vs. Antonio McDyess
I’d almost expect Kurt Thomas to get the start in this one after how well he played on Saturday. Thomas and Gadzuric seem likely to exchange starting roles based on who the Bucks are playing in Andrew Bogut’s absence. Thomas knows the Spurs well, having spent the last year and a half in San Antonio. I’d go as far as to suspect he’ll be spending the majority of the evening as the Bucks primary defender on Tim Duncan. His veteran know-how and strong base are a better fit on Duncan than Ilyasova’s annoyance.
Luke Ridnour, Jodie Meeks, Kurt Thomas and Hakim Warrick
Dejuan Blair, Roger Mason, George Hill, Matt Bonner and Michael Finley
Bench success has been a staple in the Bucks attack this year. Warrick, Ridnour, Meeks and Thomas have all had their moments, with Ridnour being the star so far. They blend seemlessly with the starters and work together to perfection. Their ball movement has been the thing that’s set them apart from the Bucks of years past. They aren’t the most talented bunch, but they offer different things. In fact, they sound very similar to the Spurs. The Spurs each and every year find reliable performers to come in and give them valuable minutes. Blair has been the exact rebounder everyone suspected he’d be. Naturally he fell to the Spurs in the second round. Finley, Mason and Bonner all hit threes with reliability and Hill is a terrific defender. The Spurs and Bucks can both throw a lot of different looks at teams, but the Spurs looks are a little more intimidating.
Prediction: Spurs 93 – Bucks 84
The Bucks and Spurs both rank in the top ten in three-point shots attempted and three-point percentage. Something’s going to have to give though, because they’re both top three in allowing the three-point shot. A lot of that has to do with effort, running out on shooters and pushing them off the line. Two teams that want to be great defensively and occasionally succeed. And while we know the Bucks allow a lot of free throws, the Spurs aren’t any better. Through 11 games, the Spurs have allowed 308 free throws compared to 302 for the Bucks. Perhaps this free throws allowed thing IS a sign of good defense. The Spurs are rarely bad company to keep on that end of the ball.
This will the the Bucks biggest test of the young season, a road game against a long time Western Conference powerhouse. If they can pull this one out, without Bogut, without Michael Redd and possibly without Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, it will be a blow to the argument that the Bucks aren’t good and can only beat bad teams.