San Antonio Spurs (Greg Popovich) 15-11
(Probable) Inactives: Matt Bonner, Michael Finley and Marcus Haislip
Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 12-15
(Probable) Inactives: Joe Alexander, Dan Gadzuric and Roko Ukic
Time: 7:30 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Tony Parker
Parker has made a career out of blowing by defenders and finishing at the rim or in the paint. Jennings has shown the ability to do the first part of that, but hasn’t quite mastered the second half. Jennings is finishing on only 46 percent of his shots at the rim, whereas Parker has consistently finished between 64 and 65 percent of his over the past four years. But it wasn’t always so easy for Parker. He never approached 50 percent on overall shooting until his fourth season and, while I don’t have the numbers, it’s unlikely he was as successful at the rim early in his career either. The NBA paint is a tough place for smaller players, especially younger ones. But with development and smarts they can evolve, as Parker has.
Michael Redd vs. Keith Bogans
So we’ve seen flashes of the scorer Michael Redd, first in the Laker game and most recently against Washington. Now the question is, can he do that on a night where either Jennings or Bogut have it going? Getting points has never been an issue for the healthy version of Michael Redd, but killing the rest of the offense at the expense of his scoring has been. Bogans continues to play defense and shoot at a decent enough level to make himself relevant.
Carlos Delfino vs. Richard Jefferson
Jefferson’s role with San Antonio couldn’t be any different from any role he’s ever had before. He’s much more of a spot-up shooter these days and isn’t given the same leeway with regard to driving he was last season with Milwaukee. Any time a player has to make such a shift in his game it’s going to take some time for him to get acclimated. I’m sure San Antonio has little to no interest in Jefferson’s regular season numbers, he’s there to help them in the playoffs. This season is about getting used to playing with Parker/Duncan/Ginobili as much as it’s about winning games. San Antonio knows where they’ll be come April and May, it’s simply about preparing before then.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Antonio McDyess
Ersan needed a day off as much as anyone when Christmas arrived. In his last two, Ersan shot 2-17 and collected a mere eight rebounds. Not his typical self for sure. The Bucks will need his shooting to come around against the powerful front court San Antonio features. McDyess has some Kurt Thomas in him: he’ll hit the open shots he’s given, he plays defense and acts like a veteran. The perfect compliment to Tim Duncan.
Andrew Bogut vs. Tim Duncan
Bogut missed the first meeting between these teams and Duncan capitalized to the tune of 24-12. Of all the players I’d love for Bogut to emulate, Duncan would be number one on the list. Duncan doesn’t get the easy dunks that a Dwight Howard might anymore, but still gets his with a wonderful array of moves and shoots better than 40 percent from anywhere inside 23 feet. That’s absurd. Bogut would have no business even attempting some of the 15 foot shots Duncan hits at a 50 percent clip. At the point they’re two finesse big men, only one can extend his range out and the other can’t. That has a lot to do with Bogut’s inability to get going some nights and general lack of scoring prowess. He really has a fairly limited repertoire on most nights and leaves himself easy to defend. That’s something that never could be said about Tim Duncan.
Charlie Bell, Luke Ridnour, Hakim Warrick, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kurt Thomas
Dejuan Blair, Manu Ginobili, George Hill and Roger Mason
No Matt Bonner!! He’s out with a broken hand, possibly from punching Bucks fans in the stomach after hitting six three’s in the last meeting between these teams. That doesn’t make the Spurs bench much less dangerous though. We all know what Ginobili can do and the Mason/Hill tandem is dangerous defensively and offensively on the perimeter. Whether Blair or McDyess starts is irrelevant, because Blair will probably get the lion’s share of the minutes and rebounds. Blair protects rebounds like a female bear protecting her cubs. He’s that strong too.
Prediction: Spurs 98 – Bucks 96
The Bucks traditionally have had a bizarre amount of success against San Antonio, but that’s not all that important. What is important, is that the Bucks seem to lose every home game against good teams by a small margin. I’m not blind to this trend and wholeheartedly expect the Bucks to stick around and play this one tough … only to falter in the end in some heartbreaking fashion. But that sure beats getting worked by the Wizards, right?