Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 42-34
Chicago Bulls (Vinny Del Negro) 37-39
Date: April 6, 2010
Time: 7:00 (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Brandon Jennings vs. Derrick Rose
Two of the best young point guards in the East go head-to-head once again, this time, with even more at stake. The Bucks win and they clinch a playoff spot without having to back in. The Bulls need all the wins they can get if they really want to make the playoffs. Jennings and Rose will have the ball in their hands all night, leading the charges. Jennings got the best of Rose the last time these teams met, most famously in the highlight above. We could see some changes in the Bucks offense that results in a little more Jennings, especially with Kurt Thomas starting. Thomas does his best work a few steps outside the paint, so in theory that should result in more operating room for Jennings on drives. We’ll see how it all shakes out though. Containing Rose is going to be a HUGE key for the Bucks.
John Salmons vs. Kirk Hinrich
If any team should know how to slow down John Salmons, it should be the Bulls. Having spent the first half of his season with Chicago, they know where he is and isn’t comfortable as well as anyone I’d assume. Hinrich is the kind of defender that can give bigger guards like Salmons problems because he’s so relentless with his pressure and physical in his style. This John Salmons is a different one than the one who played in Chicago earlier this year though. He’s doing more creating, driving and finishing. Salmons went from a middling player with a 12.7 PER in Chicago, to a key factor in the playoff race with a 17.3 PER in Milwaukee.
Carlos Delfino vs. Luol Deng
Deng’s been back the last two games from yet another injury and is getting more minutes than the Bulls expected. Don’t expect that to change against Milwaukee. He’s averaging nearly 20 points and 14 rebounds against the Bucks this season. He had only seven rebounds the last time these teams met and the Bucks would be well served to look back at that game and see how they had success boxing him out. Keeping opponents off the offensive glass has been a strength for the Bucks this season, but could be an issue with Bogut out. Deng could capitalize big time Tuesday.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Taj Gibson
Gibson’s quietly effective rookie season continues to be quiet and effective through April. In fact, he’s played his best basketball of the season in his last two games, averaging 14 points and 15.5 rebounds. As I said with Deng, keeping Gibson off the glass will be huge. At the same time, LRMAM will have to get on the glass even more than he typically does, as there will be more rebounds available without Bogut down low – on the offensive and defensive ends.
Kurt Thomas vs. Joakim Noah
Fortunately for Milwaukee, they aren’t going up against a premier scoring center in their first contest without the big man. Noah is a good defender and rebounder, but most of his scoring comes off put backs and free throws. Chicago isn’t going to be tossing it inside to him very often. Thomas will have to refrain from hacking Noah and make sure he’s making life difficult for the Bulls center by keeping him honest on defense. If Thomas is hitting his mid range jumper, it’ll pull Noah from the lane and open things up for the rest of the Bucks.
Jerry Stackhouse, Luke Ridnour, Ersan Ilyasova, Dan Gadzuric, Primoz Brezec and Charlie Bell
Brad Miller, Hakim Warrick and Flip Murray
Miller is a little bit taller version of Thomas essentially. He often gives the Bucks problems, but may be less of an issue with the more mobile Bucks front line. It’s tough to tell how the Bucks rotation will shake out, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens with Brezec and Gadzuric on Tuesday. This will be a very interesting game for the Bucks.
Prediction: Bucks 98 – Bulls 94
Milwaukee has been the kind of team that rallies together when adversity strikes. This is a perfect opportunity, as they can lock up a playoff spot and move past the Andrew Bogut injury in one fell swoop. A lot needs to be figured out between now and the start of the playoffs, but making the playoffs is the very first step. This should be a very focused Bucks group that steps on the court Tuesday night.