Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 24-27
Houston Rockets (Rick Adelman) 27-25
Time: 7:00 PM (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Aaron Brooks
Brooks was getting a little bit of buzz as a potential all-star, but that probably had more to do with his team’s surprising record that his all-star like play. In fact, I’d argue that while Jennings hasn’t shot the ball very well this year, he’s having a better season than Brooks in most regards. Jennings has a better assist rate (30.9-23.8) and lower turnover rate (12.6-13.8) while using more possessions (26.9-25.6). Both have limitations defensively, but Jennings has a better overall defensive rating as well. What really favors Jennings is that he plays a lot of his minutes with Delfino, Mbah a Moute and Bogut, or the Bucks three best defenders. Brooks limitations are similarly kept in check with Battier, Hayes and Ariza often surrounding him. As I write this I get the feeling that these teams are much more similar than I realized before, with a few noticeable exceptions.
Charlie Bell vs. Trevor Ariza
Bell may have his hands full once again with Ariza coming into Milwaukee. Ariza is athletic as hell and gets five shots a night at the rim. The problem for Ariza this year has been a mediocre shooting percentage at the rim of 55. If Ariza was shooting as well at the rim as he did last year (63 percent) his numbers may look a lot better than they do, specifically that abysmal 37.8 field goal percentage. Ariza has had more offensive freedom than ever before in coming to Houston from L.A. and has responded with more than double the number of three-point attempts per game he’s had over his career. The problem with this has been that Ariza isn’t a very good three-point shooter, save for a nice stretch in the playoffs last year with the Lakers. That all being said, he is still a good defender and could give Charlie Bell problems if he attacks the rim.
Carlos Delfino vs. Shane Battier
Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about Shane Battier’s value and how it eclipses what shows up in the box scores at the end of the night, so I’ll refrain from beating a dead horse and just say he’s probably going to give the Bucks more problems than you’d think. Delfino has slumped some in February after a scorching month of January, shooting under 40 percent from the field and failing to so much as attempt a free-throw in his past two games. Hopefully the all-star break trip he took to Mexico served him well and he’s back to the January Delfino we’ve came to know and love, rather than that ghastly December Delfino none of us ever want to see again.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Luis Scola
Scola ripped the Bucks apart for 27 and 15 in these teams last meeting, but that was pre-Mbah a Moute starting at the four. The Bucks will likely look to their do-it-all-defender to keep one of the Rockets most refined offensive players from getting on track. Scola has the game of a crafty Spainard, despite his Argentinian roots. He reminds me a little bit of a Pau Gasol actually, but maybe mixed with Reggie Evans in that he’s a little more prone to doing dirty work and not quite so talented. He’s like a happy medium between those two. Whoever he is, Scola is pretty good and can cause a lot of problems for teams that don’t prepare for him. I don’t expect the Bucks to allow him to get going again though.
Andrew Bogut vs. Chuck Hayes
Bogut typically does some of his finest work when coming off at least a few days rest, so I’d look for him to be extra springy and active Wednesday. After a layoff that included lots of sitting and poker playing, Bogut should get plenty of touches early against Chuck “Treestump” Hayes. Hayes isn’t very tall, but he’s very effective at using his strength and stature to leverage his opponents away from the hoop. It’ll be important for Bogut to counter that leverage with his spin moves or, if he’s deep enough, by going right up and over Hayes for his lefty floater baby hook. Bogut had six blocks in his last game against the Rockets and may be in line for three or four tonight given the amount of rest he’s had and players on Houston that can get inside.
Jerry Stackhouse, Luke Ridnour, Hakim Warrick, Kurt Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova
Carl Landry, Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger and David Anderson
I feel like the Bucks bench needs some sort of catchy name that ties them together with all of the trade rumors surrounding them. Trade Brigade? That’ll do. The Trade Brigade will have to use all of their collective mental will to focus on Wednesday, one night before some of them or all of them or none of them are shipped out of Milwaukee. If they didn’t exactly have their A-game, I wouldn’t be surprised. It takes a lot of mental toughness to be able to focus amid all the talk going on right now. The Rockets need not worry about this, as their big asset is collecting checks and splitting time between Chicago and Houston. Landry will probably have plenty of friends and family in the crowd getting him hyped for this one.
Prediction: Bucks 106 – Rockets 99
Milwaukee’s been good at home and the Rockets haven’t maintained pace after their quick start to the season. While the first road game after the all-star game is probably one of the easier ones on the season, the Bucks can’t afford to drop any home games if they want to make a serious playoff run and I think the veterans in the locker room have made that clear after the Pistons loss. The Bucks rebounded strong in their win at New Jersey and I’d think they should be able to get the job done against Houston.