Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 27-28

vs.

New Orleans Hornets (Jeff Bower) 30-27

Date: 2/24/2010

Time: 7:00 (CST)

TV: FSN WI (No Magic Bullet tonight)

Matchups

Point Guard

Brandon Jennings vs. Darren Collison

Another rookie from the West who has closed the gap between Jennings and the rest of this rookie class is the Hornets fill-in starting point guard Collison.  Collison got lost in the shuffle a little at UCLA with big time prospects like Jrue Holiday and Rusell Westbrook around him, but he’s found his way in the league quite nicely.  Chris Paul has gone down with injuries for two extended stretches this year, but give Collison his fair share of the credit for keeping the Hornets on track in Paul’s absence.  Collison has scored in double figures just twice off the bench this year, but in the 19 games he’s started for Paul, Collison has hit double digits every time but once while leading the Hornets to a 9-10 record.  When you look at what’s been around him in those games that record looks much better.  Collison had his first career triple double two games ago against Indiana and earlier this month recorded 18 assists in a game.  He turns it over a bit and isn’t much of a three-point shooter, but he’s going to be a handful.

Advantage: Hornets

Shooting Guard

John Salmons vs. Morris Peterson

Morris Peterson is still in the league?!  Mo-Pete has played in just 21 games this year, lacking his traditional three-point touch (33.8 3FG%) or much on the defensive end (111 D-RTG worst on the team).  So he’s a less effective version of old college teammate Charlie Bell?  Does that sound like a favorable match-up for John Salmons?  I think yes.

Advantage: Bucks

Small Forward

Carlos Delfino vs. Peja Stojakovic

The Bucks have another opportunity to get some offense going here.  Delfino hasn’t been able to find it from deep this month, so he’ll have a great opportunity to get the rest of his game going with the notoriously slow-footed Stojakovic on him.  It could be a feast for the Bucks wings Wednesday night and that hasn’t been the case very often this season.  Stojakovic is still a slick shooter (38.7 3FG%) and has been very dangerous this month in particular (45 3FG%), so Delfino will have to keep a hand up on Peja to prevent any clean looks.  If he gets hot, he can shoot the Bucks out of the game ala Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza last week.

Advantage: Bucks

Power Forward

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. David West

West is a bruiser in every sense of the word.  There’s a very good chance LRMAM actually leaves this game with numerous bruises.  West is actually the type of power forward the Bucks have long coveted but been unable to attain.  A good finisher and productive catch and shoot mid-range guy, West has feasted off Chris Paul opportunity creations for years.  He struggled without Paul in November, but has been good with Collison thus far in February averaging over 18-per-game.  West can do some things with his back to the basket, but is primarily a catch-and-shoot or face-up player.  He’ll be  a load for Mbah a Moute to keep off the glass and may result in more minutes for Ersan Ilyasova.

Advantage: Hornets

Center

Andrew Bogut vs. Emeka Okafor

Okafor has long been one of the league’s finest shot-blockers and could pose a threat to block some of Bogut’s runners and hook shots.  While he isn’t hulking in size, Okafor is athletic and a very intelligent defender.  The Bucks would be well advised to go to Bogut early and Bogut would be well advised to have his fakes ready to get Okafor off-balance in an effort to get him to foul.  Against Orlando earlier this month, Okafor played just nine minutes due to foul trouble.  If the Bucks could get into the Hornets paper thin big men rotation they could do some serious damage with Bogut.

Advantage: Bucks

Bench

Jerry Stackhouse, Luke Ridnour, Kurt Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova

vs.

Marcus Thornton, James Posey, Julian Wright and Sean Marks

Thornton blew up Tuesday.  37 points against the Cavs, including 23 in the second quarter.  While I wouldn’t worry about an encore that matches that effort, Thornton certainly bares watching as an offensive weapon off the bench.  Frankly, he’s the only offensive option off the bench, as the Hornets rely on aging James Posey for defense and Wright and Marks for virtually nothing.  The Bucks have a huge edge here and will have their best opportunity to blow this game open when the reserves are in.

Advantage: Bucks

Prediction: Bucks 95 – Hornets 84

The Hornets were able to pull one out against the Bucks earlier in the year at their home court, but this is a much different Bucks team with a much better balance.  No longer does the team rely on Jennings to do the majority of their offensive work.  The Hornets will have their hands full with Salmons, Delfino and Bogut all night long and don’t have much in reserve to counter.  With three road games coming up the rest of the week, this is a big one for the Bucks.

But then again, aren’t they all at this time of the year?