Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 28-28
Indiana Pacers (Jim O’Brien) 19-38
Time: 6:00 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Earl Watson
Jennings numbers continue to look pedestrian, but his impact is evident in the success his teammates are having. Five Bucks scored in double figures Wednesday night and three more scored nine points. If a team doesn’t have a good point guard, it’s difficult to get that kind of even distribution, even in a blowout. Jennings always keeps the offense running smooth and didn’t record a turnover against New Orleans. Jennings’ usage is at 26, his assist rate is right around 30 while his turnover rate is only 12.6. Let me take Deron Williams as an example of where Jennings is having success. Williams’ numbers in those categories are as follows, 23.6, 42.7 and 17.2. If just a few more times nightly, Jennings were to hit an open shooter leading to a successful three-point shot, Jennings could conceivably close in on the first two numbers while keeping his turnover number down. He’s not all that far off from Williams and if he used a few less possessions statistically, as a point guard he’d be in the class directly below Williams. That doesn’t say anything about his offensive struggles with shooting, which would bring his overall game down a little further. Bottom line, Jennings has been a VERY good point guard.
John Salmons vs. Brandon Rush
The last time these teams played I was less than excited about the Charlie Bell/Brandon Rush standoff at the two. Now? I’m excited that the Bucks have a clear edge at the shooting guard and should be able to benefit here. It’s all about attacking the other team where they are weak or have a disadvantage, and the Bucks are going to have an edge at the two. Salmons has the size to keep Rush from getting anything easy too, which is always nice. “When John came into the league, he came in primarily as a defender,” said Coach Skiles before Wednesday’s game. “His shooting and offense have come along as his career has come along. He knows he’s playing for a team that right now, defense is a priority. So far so good, he’s embraced that and played very well at that end. He does have size that we didn’t have.”
Carlos Delfino vs. Danny Granger
Earlier in the season Delfino had to take on a bigger role than he may have been accustomed to with the Bucks short handed on wing talent. Now? Delfino can be a supporting guy, contributing a little bit each night and playing to his strengths. It’s a role that seems to have been a good fit, especially defensively where Delfino can focus more of his efforts. Delfino blocked three shots against the Hornets, but he’s averaged nearly two steals a game in the month of February. He’ll need all the defense he can muster up against Granger. If Granger gets going, the Pacers can compete, as evidenced by their 10 point win in Houston five days ago. Granger had 36 in that one and is head and shoulders more talented than the rest of his teammates.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Troy Murphy
So the Bucks have gotten along fine without getting Murphy, huh? Murphy isn’t a bad match-up for LRMAM and is certainly less imposing than the burly David West was Wednesday. Murphy is a traditionally much stronger rebounder than West though, so LRMAM may have problems getting to the glass with the ease he did against the Hornets. It won’t be quite as easy to slither by the aggressive reboudning Murphy.
Andrew Bogut vs. Roy Hibbert
Bogut’s February numbers: 17.3/11.3/2.8. Not that he’s an all-star or anything like that. Redundancy alert. Anyway, Bogut has had some struggles in back-to-back’s (14.5/9.7/2.4) but he’s averaging 26 points-per-game against the Pacers this year, so something has to give. He was able to take the fourth quarter off in Wednesday’s game, so the extra rest may get him on track to take heed of his many advantages over Hibbert or as I like to call him, “The Black Aaron Gray.”
Jerry Stackhouse, Kurt Thomas, Luke Ridnour and Ersan Ilyasova
T.J. Ford, Dahntay Jones, Solomon Jones and Luther Head
Solomon Jones or Josh McRoberts? That’s who Jim O’Brien will be looking to if Roy Hibbert has early foul trouble or just no chance against Andrew Bogut. Do I need to keep going?
Prediction: Bucks 99 – Pacers 85
Remember when people were picking the Pacers to finish higher than the Bucks this year? Good times. This is the soft spot in Milwaukee’s three-game road stretch this weekend, so the Bucks need to jump on the Pacers early and keep them from getting into it. Granger is the type of player that has long troubled the Bucks and still could to this day. Stephen Jackson just lit up Milwaukee for 35 and he is a similar player to Granger. The Pacers’ small forward will be the focus of the Bucks defense all night and as long as Bogut has it going and the Bucks aren’t being careless, they should win going away.