Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 30-28
Atlanta Hawks (Mike Woodson) 36-21
Time: 5:00 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Mike Bibby
Jennings did everything a point guard is supposed to do against the Heat. His passing, rebounding and timely baskets had a lot to do with the Bucks offense running so effectively. Against the Hawks, who typically switch on screens and are aggressive on defense, he’ll be relied on to make the correct decisions and take care of the ball even more. Bibby’s operating more as a release valve when the athletic Hawk wings head towards the cup. He’s hitting 36.6 percent of his threes, which is down from 39 last year. He really is only dangerous if he gets hot; I’m not super worried about Mike Bibby getting in the paint.
John Salmons vs. Joe Johnson
While I was watching Saturday’s game, I had a hard time expressing how much better the Bucks are with John Salmons and how crazy it is. Salmons himself isn’t a superstar or anything, but he just fits this team so perfectly. I’ve never seen a coming together of a player and team that fit each other more perfectly at the trade deadline. The difference between the Bucks with Salmons and Bell is insane. That being said, Johnson is a stud. There’s always talk about how underrated he is, but really he’s probably rated about right. He’s super good, but he’s not like a franchise changing player. The Hawks got good not just because of Johnson, but because they got everyone to buy into playing together and have a lot of good players. He’s a star, but he’s not the best player on an NBA champion or anything.
Carlos Delfino vs. Marvin Williams
Remember when there was a serious debate about Williams or Bogut? People don’t mention that Chris Paul and Deron Williams received little to no consideration for the Bucks first pick in 2005, it was all Bogut and Williams. I think the Bucks made the right move though, at least with regard to those two. Williams is an average swingman, a 10-15 point-per-game kind of guy who can’t really shoot the three, but plays okay defense and works hard. So naturally he’s locked up for over $30 million over the next four years. Yikes. He’s a good, long defender though and fits their system well.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Josh Smith
Smith has put it all together this year and even quit shooting threes. How he wasn’t an all-star but Horford was, I’ll never know. Smith is hella athletic still, a good passer, rebounder and shot-blocker. He garners more mention than Bogut when the best defenders are mentioned, probably because his team has been in the playoffs recently and he is so versatile. Smith is a threat to steal any pass and block any shot; the idea of him is nearly as threatening as him himself. In Bucks fans dreams, LRMAM becomes a less athletic Smith.
Andrew Bogut vs. Al Horford
Bogut destroyed all-star David Lee last week and that must have felt good for him. He’ll have another chance against the Horford, but it won’t be as easy. Horford has much better size than Lee and won’t be muscled around the hoop. NBA 2K10 is constantly reminding me that he’s similar to Maurice Lucas and that Mo would be okay with that comparison. Whoever Horford is, Bogut will probably see a little more action against him than he did in Miami. I don’t forsee the Hawks dropping into a zone in fear of Bogut the way the Heat did. It’ll be on Sunday.
Jerry Stackhouse, Luke Ridnour, Kurt Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova
Maurice Evans, Jamal Crawford, Joe Smith and Zaza Pachulia
Crawford is a leading candidate for sixth man of the year and rightly so. That being said, he’s still a streaky shooter who can go cold. Crawford is the majority of what the Hawks offer off the bench, as their starters play a lot of minutes. The Bucks bench will see the majority of their minutes up against at least a few Hawks starters and won’t have the same impact they typically have. Another nice game out of Stackhouse to match Crawford would be nice.
Prediction: Hawks 95 – Bucks 90
As the Bucks still look for their signature road victory, an opportunity will present itself Sunday. But it won’t be easy. The Hawks are athletic and controlled, a very difficult combination for anyone to handle. The Bucks are a very good defensive team, but they haven’t played the Hawks yet and dealt with their slashing. A tendency to foul has been one of the Bucks bugaboos on defense this year and that may crop up against the Hawks. We’ll see on Sunday.