Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 0-2
Inactive: Chris Douglas Roberts, Michael Redd, Darington Hobson
Charlotte Bobcats (Larry Brown) 0-2
Inactive: Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire, Eduardo Najera
Game Time: 7:30 PM (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
The Other Guys: Queen City Hoops
Brandon Jennings vs. DJ Augustin
Removing the month of November last season and a March game in Sacramento, Brandon Jennings was a 33% 3-point shooter last season. This season, he’s 2-12 from behind the arc. I’m not saying he’s a bad 3-point shooter, but I’m saying it’s certainly something worth keeping an eye. His ridiculous November last year certainly masked some ills. When we separate it and treat it as a fluke, the picture is not quite as pretty. He whiffed on a lot of very clean, open looks Friday night that could have really helped out Milwaukee. If he’s not making those reliably this season, that changes a lot for the Bucks. Augustin has shooting problems of his own. He’s 7-29 on the season. His size gives him trouble defensively too. There aren’t many point guards in the league that Jennings can muscle up, but Augustin is one of them.
John Salmons vs. Stephen Jackson
Salmons has scored 12 points this season and committed seven turnovers. So that pretty accurately sums up how things have gone for him in two games. He’s bound to improve on that, but how much? He slumped badly in Chicago after starting so strong when they acquired him. Should the Bucks prepare themselves for a significant drop in production from Salmons? We’ll have a better idea in a month. Jackson is still Stephen Jackson and can still torch the Bucks. Milwaukee’s a lot bigger than they used to be and Jackson certainly used to take advantage of that. He won’t have free reign, but could still pose a lot of problems for Milwaukee.
Carlos Delfino vs. Gerald Wallace
Wallace isn’t rebounding with the same viciousness that he did last season, dropping from his 10 a game to a more believable 7.5, but he’s still a load for opposing small forwards. His athleticism and fearlessness are reminiscent of Corey Maggette, just with less volume. At least historically. This season Wallace has ramped things up and has been awarded 24 free throws in two games. Given the way the Bucks have allowed free throws this season, that could be an issue tonight. Delfino has been one of the better Bucks, but didn’t get many looks on Friday. They’ll need to look to him for open threes early in the night, just to get someone going from long range. He’s without question the best shooter in the Bucks starting lineup. The way Jennings and Salmons have shot, he’s starting to look like the only one.
Drew Gooden vs. Boris Diaw
Boris Diaw is no David West and he’s no Kevin Love. So for the first time, Gooden shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the opposing power forward. But he can’t slack either. 10 of Diaw’s 21 shot attempts this season have been 3-pointers, so Gooden will need to be hustling about to make sure he can help out and then get back to Diaw behind the arc. Offensively, Gooden will have a nice size advantage over Diaw and should be able to turn in a high percentage outing. Milwaukee doesn’t want to feature Drew Gooden offensively though, so hopefully the majority of his points come on pick and pops or put-backs. That’s an ideal scenario for Gooden.
Andrew Bogut vs. Nazr Mohammed
Many years ago, Milwaukee would go inside to Bogut on the first play of the game. Then he would stand around and watch guards shoot questionable shots and ignore him for the remaining 46 minutes. No one wants to see that again. Bogut attempted just seven shots against Minnesota. Some of the blame goes to him, he got in foul trouble and maybe passed on a few occasions in which he should have shot, but whatever the case may be, Bogut needs to get more shots. It’s clear that the Bucks are significantly less successful with Bogut off the floor, now they just need him to be more aggressive when he’s on it for them to get past their early struggles. Mohammed is a big, physical center, but he’s ultimately a backup center. The second best center in the league should have his way with the journeyman Mohammed.
Corey Maggette, Ersan Ilyasova, Keyon Dooling, Jon Brockman and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Tyrus Thomas, Shawn Livingston, DeSagana Diop, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown
If Corey Maggette didn’t exist and the Bucks bench just played six players on Friday night, their line would have looked like this: 13 points (6-20 FG 0-4 3FG 1-2 FT), 10 rebounds, four assists, four turnovers and 17 personal fouls. That, friends, is a disaster. Milwaukee absolutely must find some other solutions off the bench, aside from Maggette. It was nice to see Mbah a Moute and Brockman return, but they provided little more than energy. Brockman needs to do the rebounding he was brought in to do. Mbah a Moute still looks fairly hopeless anywhere on the offense aside from directly underneath the rim. He still looked good defensively, but Milwaukee’s offensive problems are so significant right now, it’s difficult to forget his issues on that end. Charlotte may be one of the only teams in the league that poses less of a threat from behind the arc than Milwaukee. The Bucks can cling to Maggette’s one made 3-pointer off the bench, but the Bobcats have yet to see a backup hit a three. This could get ugly tonight.
Prediction: Bucks 89 – Bobcats 86
Third time is a charm, right? I know I keep picking the Bucks and they continue to lose, but I’ll get my thumb on this team yet. Few teams lose their home openers, if Milwaukee drops this one, I’d be even more surprised than I was last night. The Bucks are bound to have a few players return to form and make some shots. This will be Salmons third game back, I’d peg him as a hopeful.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).