Brandon Jennings vs. Jonny Flynn
The point guard everyone wanted to end up on the Bucks, against the point guard everyone is happy to have on the Bucks. To the surprise of virtually everyone, Jennings has thoroughly outplayed Flynn through three games. Both are turning it over a bit and Flynn has gotten to the line more with more success, but Jennings has better numbers with regard to steals, rebounds, assists and points, with the last one not even being close. Flynn has Al Jefferson underneath to help bear the scoring load, but hasn’t exactly been racking up the assists giving it to Big Al. Flynn does excel at hitting his free throws (over 90%!!) and as we all know, allowing free throws has been an Achilles heel for the Bucks. Keeping him from the line will be key.
Charlie Bell vs Corey Brewer
It really might not get worse offensively than Brewer. Brewer can virtually be left alone outside of ten feet; he shoots less than 31% from outside of ten feet. But that length that everyone raved about when Brewer was coming out of Florida? It’s starting to pay dividends. He’s third in the NBA in steals and averages over two and a half steals per game. On top of that he throws in one block and may be in good position to improve on both those numbers against the Bucks. Brewer is 6’8 with arms that can probably open car doors on either side of his car if he sits in the middle. Charlie Bell is 6’3. So this may be a challenge for him on the offensive end. Fortunately, Bell will likely be able to conserve his energy on defense while Brewer chucks away to no avail. If Bell can find open space on occasions that Brewer goes for steals the shots will be there for him, as usual.
Carlos Delfino vs. Ryan Gomes
Gomes has been pounding the glass this year with previously unseen ferocity, averaging nearly eight rebounds a game. This shouldn’t be surprising for a small forward who is 6’7 250, but he’s never averaged more than six rebounds in any of his previous four NBA seasons. On top of that Gomes has the second best defensive rating (estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) on the T’Wolves and turns the ball over very little. But you know what really drives me crazy when I compare Gomes and Delfino? Gomes has virtually the same three point shooting percentage as Delfino and a considerably higher overall shooting percentage. Why are we considering Delfino a good shooter? Because he’s A. foreign and B. otherwise largely untalented. The Amir Johnson for Delfino and Roko Ukic trade is beginning to drive me insane.
Hakim Warrick vs. Oleksiy Pecherov
I’m not the first person to mention this, this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned it and it was pointed out to me by a gentleman at the Bucks-T’Wolves preseason game three weeks ago, but Pecherov looks a lot like Stewey Griffin. From what I understand though, Pecherov does not have a faux British accent and has never attempted to kill his mother, thereby ending the comparisons. Pecherov has actually been very effective when he’s seen minutes this year. Averaging only around 18 minutes per game, Pecherov is putting up 11.4 point and 4.4 rebounds a night. He’s scoring efficiently (59%) and looks like a possible piece for Minnesota. It will be interesting to see how Pecherov uses his considerable height advantage (he’s seven feet tall) against Warrick. Pecherov has only blocked one shot in 88 minutes this year, so I’d expect Warrick to take it right at him and try and get to the line after a sub par free throw game Tuesday in Chicago.
Andrew Bogut vs. Al Jefferson
Bogut had his best game of the season on Tuesday, notching 16 points and 13 rebounds. Bogut was effective with his left hand, taking it to Brad Miller a number of times and finishing with a soft touch, but still lacks much of a back to the basket game. Al Jefferson is an efficient scoring, rebounding machine. Career averages of 19 points and 11 rebounds with a block and a half per game to boot. He’s one of the finest low post scorers in the NBA. Of course none of that matters right now, because something appears afoot with Al Jefferson. He’s averaging six and a half rebounds per game. For those adverse to simple mathematics, that’s FOUR AND A HALF fewer rebounds per game than his career average. His usually stellar field goal percentage is down to .418 and he’s playing only 30 minutes a night. Maybe all these things are tied together, maybe he’s not completely healthy after a knee injury that prematurely ended his season last year, but something is up. Until he goes through an entire season of crapitude though, I’ll assume Jefferson is still a bad man.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Ridnour and Dan Gadzuric
Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins, Wayne Ellington and Damien Wilkins
Ramon Sessions! Everyone’s favorite former Buck has not done much with his new squad thus far. STILL a backup point guard, Ramon’s numbers have suffered in his new surroundings. He’s getting fewer shots, fewer minutes and a seemingly unfavorable situation. When he was signed the idea was that he could spend some time playing with Jonny Flynn. That idea didn’t fly with Jonny Flynn and now Sessions is solely a backup point guard with a crappy second unit. Hollins is the 2005 version of Dan Gadzuric, Wayne Ellington has struggled with his shot and Wilkins is a black hole. This won’t happen often, but the Bucks actually have a superior bench to Minnesota.
Prediction: Bucks 94 – Timberwolves 86
A battle between two below average offensive teams could likely come down to which team is better defensively … fortunately that’s the Bucks. There haven’t been many bright spots this year for Minnesota and there likely won’t be all year long. Jonny Flynn will be exciting, Kevin Love will eventually return and Al Jefferson will likely round into form, but I’m not worried about all of that coming together on Friday (Love’s still hurt and Jefferson remains a mystery). These are two of the worst teams with regard to free throws allowed/free throws taken, so something will have to give on Friday.
The Bucks may come out more aggressive after a frustrating loss Tuesday and a great opportunity to get one on the road before an extended home stand. The lack of shooters around Al Jefferson leaves him ripe for double teaming. When he’s double teamed the Bucks can be aggressive in crashing the boards and playing passing lanes. If they are able to force turnovers and win the rebound battle this should be a win for them.