Milwaukee Buck s (Scott Skiles) 15-20
(Probable) Inactives: Dan Gadzuric or Joe Alexander
Portland Trail Blazers (Nate McMillan) 23 -16
Inactives: Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla and Nicolas Batum
Time: 9:00 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Andre Miller
That never ending run of injuries finally landed Miller in the starting lineup after a turbulent beginning with the Blazers and results seem to have been generally positive. It’s hard to say it hasn’t been when a team has suffered as many injuries as Portland and is still six games above .500. Starting for Portland hasn’t been much different than starting for Philly for Miller though, as he still cannot hit a three for the life of him: 21 percent on the year. Miller’s three-point shooting is one of those phenomenons I’ll never understand. How could an NBA point guard be so brutal? Miller is generally pretty efficient though, running the show, getting to the line and playing good defense are all his things. Look for him to attempt to take Jennings in the post here and there, as he likes to post up little guys like Jennings and then shoot the mid-range jumper.
Charlie Bell vs. Brandon Roy
Roy hasn’t been wrecking the league on a nightly basis like he did last year, but he’s still been pretty good, evidenced by his first game against the Bucks this year. He struggled with his shot all night, but when the game was on the line, Roy hit an incredible fall away shot that landed Portland in overtime. He’ll be a load for Charlie Bell and I’d expect Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to see plenty of time on him. Roy’s shot 50 percent or better in each of his last three games and made a combined 27 trips to the line in those contests, so Milwaukee may not be catching him at the most opportune moment. Bell just needs to keep hitting three’s to balance this out a little bit even.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Martell Webster
Webster, owner of one of the most pure three-point shots in the league, doesn’t spend a lot of time attacking the hoop. More than half of his total shots have been from three-point range, so it will be important for the Bucks to keep running him off the arc and making him put it down before he can shoot it. The Bucks are right on the edge of what you may call the “middle of the pack” in terms of defending the three; they’ve allowed teams to shoot 34.3 percent, good for 11th in the league. I’d expect Portland to shoot their share of free throws in this game and if that’s happening and Webster is getting loose for open three’s, it’ll be all bad for Milwaukee.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge did all sorts of nasty things to the Bucks when he dropped 31 and 11 on them earlier this year. He’s a tough match-up for Milwaukee as he could get Bogut in foul trouble and he’s a little too big for Ersan to hang with. With Przybilla out and Juwan Howard playing next to him, in theory he’s less of a threat and easier to focus on, but things don’t always work out like that. Especially not since Howard’s shown a pulse and then some in his extra playing time.
Andrew Bogut vs. Juwan Howard
If Bogut’s struggles against Phoenix can be attributed to the pace of that contest then this should be a prime opportunity to make up for it. The Blazers rank 30th in the league in pace and feature Juwan Howard, Aldridge, Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham up front. This game screams 30 points for Bogut. Milwaukee will need to go to him early and often to take advantage of the constant size disparity between Bogut and whichever power forward masquerading as a center is guarding him. If he doesn’t finish this game with 20 shots I’ll be seriously disappointed. The Blazers will have to double team Bogut all night, so open shots could be the pleasant result of those extra men flying at Bogut. The shooters will need to be ready and Bogut will have to be aggressive.
Luke Ridnour, Hakim Warrick, Kurt Thomas and Jodie Meeks
Jeff Pendergraph, Steve Blake, Dante Cunningham, Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless
Bayless can get buckets in bunches, that is, when his playing time is there. For whatever reason he languishes in some kind of nether, struggling to get consistent minutes, despite often producing when he receives them. Chalk it up to him being young I guess. Blake had a recent bout with pneumonia, but will play in this game and Rudy Fernandez appears to be looking like a go. Word is he’ll be limited to 5-7 minutes a half though, fortunately. Warrick and Ridnour have been destroying the competition lately, with Warrick doing all the things Milwaukee expected him to do for a long time. Mainly, dunking and running around. I’d love to see some more Jennings/Warrick moments this evening.
Prediction: Blazers 93 – Bucks 86
Blazers too good at home, Bucks too bad on the road. That’s how I’ll classify this game. I do expect Milwaukee to battle hard and take some momentum with them into Golden State though, where a win in entirely possible. If the Bucks second unit plays to their absolute maximum potential this evening though, this could turn in the Bucks favor real quick. The problem is, I wouldn’t expect to see too much of the Portland bench. Portland’s starters have been playing around 40 minutes a night lately, largely nullifying the Bucks second most significant advantage.