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Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 5-5
Inactive: Chris Douglas Roberts, Michael Redd, Darington Hobson
Los Angeles Lakers (Phil Jackson) 8-2
Inactive: Andrew Bynum, Theo Ratliff
Game Time: 7:00 PM (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
The Other Guys: Forum Blue and Gold
Brandon Jennings vs. Derek Fisher
Jennings will once again have a quickness advantage, but will he be able to put it to use? He’s been much, much better finishing at the rim this season, but his in-between game still needs work. It’s hard to complain too much though, he’s having a strong second season and been very effective in a lot of areas in the game over the past three games. Fisher has been a little better this year than he was last year, specifically with his outside shooting (12-22 on 3FG), but he’s still largely out there because he’s savvy. He’ll probably draw a charge at some point tonight that no one will like and he’ll probably hit an open three. If Milwaukee’s going to win this game, it would help greatly if Jennings dominated this match-up.
John Salmons vs. Kobe Bryant
Salmons had a very fine scoring game for the Bucks last Saturday, finally giving the team a 25-point plus effort. Of course, he did it against Monta Ellis and an interior defensive combo that strikes fear in the heart of maybe a third grader or two. Not against the Lakers and their difficult perimeter defense. If he’s guarding Kob … BOOOOOO (I’m just getting used to what the Bradley Center SHOULD be like tonight after last season’s heartbreaker), he’ll have his hands full.
Luc Mbah a Moute vs. Ron Artest
Mbah a Moute will have his chance on you know who, but he’ll likely get some time against Artest too. The Lakers bulky small forward can muscle up nearly any small forward in the league, but he still takes an awful lot of bad shots. If he’s hot though, the Lakers already dangerous offense takes another step forward. The Artest-Maggette match-up should be one of the most physical battles we’ll see this season at the Bradley Center. The Lakers powerful front court has them among the leaders in rebounds per game and at the very top of the leader board when it comes to offensive rebound percentage. Los Angeles makes enough shots as it is, the Bucks can’t afford to give them second chances. Mbah a Moute could come in hand here keeping Laker twos and threes off the glass.
Drew Gooden vs. Lamar Odom
Odom had an MRI on his right foot Monday but it only revealed a bone bruise, so he’s likely to play against the Bucks. That’s bad news for Milwaukee, as Odom is enjoying one of his finest seasons, coming on the heels of a strong run in the World Championships. The Lakers nimble and multi-talented power forward is hitting 58.6% of his field goals and 58.8% of his threes. Dangerous. Gooden is coming off a fine game against the Warriors and will have the opportunity to give the Bucks a little consistency inside, something they haven’t seen in some time. He was an offensive rebounding terror last Saturday and will need to repeat that feat if the Bucks are struggling offensively again. In addition, he’ll have to keep Odom off the glass when the Lakers miss, not an easy task.
Andrew Bogut vs. Pau Gasol
Bogut’s struggling mightily with his right hand down low. The Warriors shaded him towards his right when he looked to make a post move and he wasn’t able to respond with much. No doubt teams around the league are catching on to his struggles at the moment. If he could get into his moves quicker before the defense has time to react, that would go along way towards allowing him to keep using his left, which has been as effective as ever. Gasol is having a monster year and after Bryant is obviously the Lakers most important player. Bogut will likely be glued to him all night, especially with Bynum out of the lineup.
Ersan Ilyasova, Corey Maggette, Earl Boykins, Keyon Dooling and Jon Brockman
Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Derek Caracter
Milwaukee’s bench can’t go 1-18 for four measly points again, can they? The law of averages says no. Maggette in particular could have a much better game, he’s not one to be held down for too long offensively. It will be interesting to see who handles the backup point guard minutes for Milwaukee. The Lakers are traditionally a big guard team and this year’s version isn’t much different. Fisher and Blake could both give Boykins a lot of trouble thanks to his size. Dooling seemed relegated to off ball and third point guard the last two games, but that’s a position that will likely continue to evolve.
Prediction: Bucks 100 – Lakers 94
Milwaukee’s the finest defensive team in the league, while the Lakers currently own the league’s best offense. Something has to give! Defense traditionally is supposed to reign supreme, right? Maybe, but that train of thought may not apply to a team that features Kobe B … BOOOOOO!
The Bucks get their first measuring stick of the year this year. If Saturday’s offensive unit shows up, it’s unlikely they’ll measure up.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (to the right).