Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 34-29
Utah Jazz (Jerry Sloan) 42-22
Time: 7:30 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Deron Williams
In winning 10 of their last 11 games, the Bucks haven’t had to deal with a lot of great point guards. Of the bunch, Rajon Rondo stands out as the best, and while he may have penetration skills second to none, his non-existent jump-shot makes for a built in flaw. Randy Foye, Ray Felton, Rafer Alston and Mo Williams aren’t an especially terrifying group. Deron Williams on the other hand, is the real deal. Williams can score at the rim, hit the mid-range jumper or shoot the three. His size presents another problem for Jennings, standing two or three inches taller than him and weighing 40 pounds more. He’ll be as difficult to deal with on both ends as Jennings has had to deal with in some time.
John Salmons vs. Wesley Matthews
An undrafted rookie out of Marquette, Wesley will get plenty of love in Milwaukee on Friday. He’s got the story and he’s in the right town, so when his name’s announced as apart of the starting lineup for the Jazz, I’d expect it to hear a lot like it did in his years playing for Marquette at the BC. That being said, he’s still just an average player. He’s a fun story, but if the Jazz had someone who could create or be more reliable as a scorer at the two, they’d be more dangerous. Matthews falls somewhere in between Charlie Bell and John Salmons.
Carlos Delfino vs. Andrei Kirilenko
I can’t help but wonder, why did the Jazz get rid of Ronnie Brewer? They’re a tough team and look like they could make a decent run in a wide open (after the Lakers) West, but unloaded someone who can really help. At the very least, isn’t he a nice option to have off the bench? Kirilenko is as great defender, but he’s flaky and can’t extend the floor. Kirilenko might be able to silence the consistent production Delfino’s been putting up lately.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Carlos Boozer
LRMAM did a terrific job using his advantages over David West to neutralize his game when the Hornets came to town, but Boozer is even better than West. He’s got good touch and a good feel in the pick and roll game. LRMAM is going to have to use his strengths, speed, quickness, desire and offensive rebounding, to get Boozer out of his comfort zone and out of his game. I’d expect the Jazz to go at the Prince right away to make him prove himself yet again at the four.
Andrew Bogut vs. Mehmet Okur
Okur loves to shoot threes. It’s his thing. It says a lot about where Okur likes to get his shots that he’s 6’11 and in eight seasons has never been all that close to a 50% shooter. Of course, he is an effective three-point shooter, so this is one of those nights Bogut will have to be running around the perimeter chasing Okur off pick and pops. If there was one night I’d be worried about Bogut’s block streak coming to an end, this would be the night. Fortunately, Bogut should be able to do some damage against Okur offensively.
Jerry Stackhouse, Luke Ridnour, Kurt Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova
Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, C.J. Miles and Ronnie Price
Stackhouse says he’ll be ready to go Friday after missing Tuesday’s game with a hamstring strain. The difference in Stackhouse and Charlie Bell was evident on Tuesday, as Bell had trouble with Marquis Daniels’ size and wasn’t able to get his shot going, rendering him ineffective. Millsap is a bull of a power forward and Utah went to great lengths to lock him up after last season. He’s a very good scorer inside and a terrific offensive rebounder, like a more skilled Jason Maxiell. He could cause a lot of problems for the Bucks if Boozer is struggling.
Prediction: Utah 94 – Bucks 93
All good things must come to an end and it might not be such a terrible thing for the Bucks to lose again. The Bucks are best as an underdogs and beating Utah, Boston and Cleveland in the same week kind of takes some of the under out of the dog, doesn’t it? Losing can help keep teams focused and prevent them from peaking too early. A loss here may be the key to a win or two in the playoffs later.
Of course, I hope I’m wrong.