Before we get into today’s preview, what do the Bucks need to do about their recent defensive problems?
Chicago Bulls (Vinny Del Negro) 6-8
(Likely) Inactives: Jerome James, Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich
Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 8-7
(Likely) Inactives: Joe Alexander, Andrew Bogut, Michael Redd
Game time: 7:00 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Derrick Rose
If anyone is operating on the illusion that playing point guard in the NBA is easy, you can look to Brandon Jennings and Derrick Rose for confirmation that that theory is flawed. Jennings has fallen on hard times since the media storm that’s encompassed him since his 55-point game. Rose has struggled some in his second NBA season, likely due to an ankle injury and a suspect jump-shot. He’s getting to the rim less and having to settle for more mid-range jump shots. And as I said, he’s not particularly good at shooting mid-range or long distance jump shots, hitting just 40 percent of his 16-23 foot jumpers while pretty much completely foregoing the three (1-6 on the year). Rose’s inability to shoot the three makes him a little easier to guard and Jennings confidence at home makes him more liable to have a big day offensively. The Bulls don’t have a Dwight Howard roaming the paint to deter him inside. Could be a nice day.
Charlie Bell vs. John Salmons
The last time we met, John Salmons was struggling to sub-par numbers. Things have not changed much. Since shooting 3-15 against the Bucks on the third of November, Salmons has shot a not-so-sizzling 41 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point land. This was the guy essentially designated Ben Gordon’s replacement. You know, the Ben Gordon that hits three-point shots when he opens his eyes from sleep in the morning. Bell had his hands full with Vince Carter against the Magic on Saturday, but Salmons is not the physical specimen Carter is.
Carlos Delfino vs. Luol Deng
“He’s a good (and long) defender, but is that really worth ten million dollars a year? Yikes. Isn’t that pretty much what Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is (at least sans jump shot currently)?” That is what I wrote in my preview for the first Bucks-Bulls game. Then Deng grabbed 20 rebounds and scored 24 points. Then he continued to play well and is currently averaging 18 points and eight rebounds a night. Or better numbers than most starting small forwards. Among small forwards playing more than 25 minutes a night, Deng is 7th in PER. He’s not incredible, but he’s more than reliable as a above averaging starter in this league. He’s also a good defender and among the best rebounding small forwards in the league. There will be no Luol Deng bashing in this spot today.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Taj Gibson
Ersan is actually Turkish for “it’s on”. He’s taken off the mask and brought out the beast it was containing. 20-16 in his last game with seven, SEVEN, offensive boards. On top of that, Ersan also is up to 12 charges taken this year, good for fourth in the league. Taj Gibson is a jumpy rookie that seems to play with a little more energy and passion than Tyrus Thomas. He can’t shoot three’s and isn’t as smooth off the dribble as Ilyasova though. No one is. I’m a little excited about Ily’s last game. Realistically, it’s unlikely he’ll have another game like his last any time soon, but he’s developing nicely into a near double-digit rebounder and three-point threat.
Dan Gadzuric vs. Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah, welcome to the all-star discussion. I’ve always liked Noah’s, um, energy. Some thought he was a bad seed or too eccentric when he entered the league, but I thought he always just had a great will to win. That will to win has served him well this year. Noah is fourth in the league in rebound percentage (19.5), rebounds per game (11.7) and ranks in the top ten in both offensive rebounds (56) and total rebounds (164). He’s also averaging a career high 1.6 blocks per game. So we’ve established that Noah can play defense, but offensively he’s still not much to brag about. 11 points per game on 54 percent from the field. He certainly won’t cause the problems on offense for the Bucks the way Dwight Howard did, but will at least be pesky. Unlike the average Dan Gadzuric game.
Luke Ridnour, Jodie Meeks, Kurt Thomas and Hakim Warrick
Brad Miller, Jannero Pargo, James Johnson and Lindsey Hunter
The Bulls are not unlike the Bucks in that they’ve been hit by a few injuries. Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich are the most significant wounded members of the Bulls and have forced the likes of Lindsey Hunter and (occasionally) Aaron Gray into work. Of course, the Bucks will have no sympathy for anyone on the injury front. They’ll remain without Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd and will likely be without Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. They will have a deeper bench than the Bulls though and that’s pretty cool. Luke Ridnour will not continue to score 20 points and sink jumpers left and right, but he should still be able to be effective and contribute as a scorer and ball-mover without Redd active. Ridnour has such nice runner related shots, something he hopefully is teaching Brandon Jennings.
Prediction: Bucks 102 – Bulls 98
Defense has been the issue for the Bucks lately, but the Bulls may be a quick-fix for that problem. The Bulls are 27th in the league in offensive rating, averaging just 98.8 points per 100 possessions. They could really use a guy like Ben Gordon right about now, eh? Too bad he got so overpaid by Detroit. If Detroit (or whatever other stupid team would have done it) wouldn’t have tossed so much money at Gordon, he could possibly still be a Bull and they could still be a lot of fun. Now? They aren’t as fun and they aren’t as relevant. But of course, no game should be looked at as an easy win for the Bucks as they are currently constructed with their injuries.