Game 26 Preview: Bucks at Pacers

Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 11-14

(Likely) Inactives: Dan Gadzuric, Joe Alexander and Roko Ukic

at

Indiana Pacers (Jim O’Brien) 9-16

(Likely) Inactives: Travis Diener, Jeff Foster and Danny Granger

Date: 12/21/2009

Time: 6:00 (CST)

TV: FS Wisconsin

Match-Ups

Point Guard

Brandon Jennings vs. T.J. Ford

I get that Brandon Jennings can occasionally frustrate Bucks fans.  He’s struggled recently and sometimes puts up a lot of shots.  In the box scores it’s not always so pretty.  So the next time you find yourself complaining about something Brandon Jennings has done, mosey on over to Basketball-Reference.com and look at T.J. Ford’s page.  T.J. Ford is 1-25 on three’s.  His assist percentage is lower and turnover percentage is higher than Jennings’.  And this is just who Ford is as a player.  He isn’t likely getting any better, we now can feel comfortable expecting this out of him.  Ford is one of many great examples of players Brandon Jennings is better than, despite being significantly younger.  So next time you’re in panic mode, just go check him out and realize the Bucks could be in worse shape.

Advantage: Bucks

Shooting Guard

Carlos Delfino vs. Dahntay Jones

Jones is one of many players tough to examine on paper.  His numbers don’t jump off the page as impressive, aside from a large number of free throw attempts for a guy who I never remember as being good offensively, but he’s always referred to as a good defender.  It’s the LRMAM Conundrum.  The thing about the Bucks is that they don’t really have a wing player who requires much stopping, so doesn’t that leave Jones in kind of an awkward spot defensively?  Regardless, I’d expect him to make a few trips to the line, turn the ball over three times and not be a major factor either way.  Alas, he’s still better than Delfino.  Sigh.

Advantage: Pacers

Small Forward

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Mike Dunleavy

Dunleavy was sidetracked by injuries last season and at the start of this one, and since returning this year has recaptured the shooting form that made him a good offensive player two years ago.  While his assists and rebounds are down, the Pacers seem a much better team offensively with him on the floor than without.  And while he’s not a standout defensive player, he’s not horrendous either, thanks to an above average ability to draw charges.  Dunleavy’s height gives him an advantage over lots of wing players, but it won’t help much against LRMAM.  As someone who’s been effective but is still getting his legs back, look for LRMAM to be aggressive defensively and cause problems for Dunleavy.

Advantage: Bucks

Power Forward

Ersan Ilyasova vs. Troy Murphy

From nearly all accounts, Murphy is terrific at shooting and rebounding.  So it’s tempting to say he’s similar to Ilyasova.  But he’s not.  Murphy is really bad at playing defense and is nowhere near the general pest that Ersan is.  Ersan will get to balls and save possessions that he has no business saving.  He’s constant energy, even if that does lead to a few questionable step-back three’s.  But he’ll have to be sure to refrain from veering too far away from Murphy at the top of the key in this one: 23 of his 32 three-point makes have come from up top.

Advantage: Bucks

Center

Andrew Bogut vs. Roy Hibbert

Check this quote out from EightPointsNineSeconds.com (TrueHoop Network’s Indiana Pacers Blog):

“It will be interesting to see if Roy can string together back-to-back good games — something he hasn’t done in over a month.”

And we thought Andrew Bogut was inconsistent.  This should be a good opportunity for Bogut to bounce back after a tough shooting night against the Kings.  While he’s a mountain of a man, Hibbert isn’t very athletic, as evidenced by his poor rebounding rate for a seven-footer.  Bogut could do significant damage in the face up game, even if Hibbert is able to give him problems on the running hook shots.  Hibbert is shooting 50 percent and is a good free throw shooter for a center, but simply doesn’t get many looks: only eight shots a game.  Can anyone explain to me why Dahntay Jones is getting over 13 shots a night while Hibbert is limited to eight?  Is Hibbert just that unaggressive?  Wild.

Advantage: Bucks

Bench

Michael Redd, Charlie Bell, Luke Ridnour, Hakim Warrick, Jodie Meeks and Kurt Thomas

vs.

Earl Watson, Tyler Hansbrough, Brandon Rush and Luther Head

It’s nearly impossible to know whose number will get called for the Bucks these days off the bench.  It seems like coach Scott Skiles has decided to put guys in, see if they’re playing well and stick with whoever has the best start.  In theory, that’s how it should all be decided, but in practice, it’s a little strange.  How can anyone feel comfortable knowing that if they don’t immediately produce they could be limited to five second half minutes?  The rotation will probably figure itself out in time, but for the time being, it’s more than a bit jumbled.  The talent for a good bench is still there for the Bucks though, something I’ not sure I can say about Indiana.  Remember when everyone wasn’t sure that Hansbrough could do much in the NBA due to his suspect athleticism, but then we all were wowed by his numbers and figured he “just knew how to play”.  Well our first suspicions may have been correct.  He ranks ninth in the league in percentage of shots blocked (12 percent) and is shooting just 51 percent at the rim.  And that number dramatically falls as he moves outside of the immediate rim area.

Advantage: Bucks

Prediction: Bucks 108 – Pacers 104

I can understand if you’re a frustrated Bucks fan right now.  Three straight tough losses, two against top five teams and seemingly one problem after the next cropping up in every game.

But at least the Bucks aren’t the Pacers.

The Pacers sit where the Bucks sat in 2006.  They have one star, who isn’t quite good enough to really be a star.  Don’t get me wrong, Danny Granger is pretty good, but he’s hardly much better than Michael Redd was in his formative years.  After Granger?  Just a bunch of guys.  On a given night the Pacers could get hot and beat some teams, but what are they building towards?  Who are their prospects that could take a leap and get them contending?  Roy Hibbert is probably as good a prospect as they have, and he moves about as well as buildings do.  I just see no one as a potential future building block on Indiana.

Meanwhile, the Bucks have Jennings.  Is he a legit star?  Not yet, but he did have that one bright shining moment.  It was a possible view into the future, something to let us know, “hey, I could get there one day.”  And while we’ve watched Jennings deal with more downs than ups in recent weeks, we as Bucks fans can still look back and be excited about looking forward.  That’s more than the fans of the Pacers can say.

Categories: Game Previews

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