Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 5-7
Inactive: Chris Douglas Roberts, Michael Redd, Darington Hobson
Oklahoma City Thunder (Scott Brooks) 8-4
Inactive: Jeff Green (probably), Byron Mullens
Game Time: 7:30 PM (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
The Other Guys: Daily Thunder
Brandon Jennings vs. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook did work on Rajon Rondo Friday night, so he’s probably not shaking at the thought of facing Jennings Saturday evening. He’s absurdly athletic and will be a very difficult match-up for Jennings. He has an incredible 26 PER on the season, despite still lacking much in regards to an outside shot. He drives by defenders and finishes in the lane so well though, that it hardly matters that he can’t shoot reliably. Jennings struggled against the Sixers after a few strong games. At this point, it’s impossible to know coming into a game whether or not Jennings will be passive or aggressive, effective or ineffective, accurate with his shot or missing or anything else. He’s all over the map.
John Salmons vs. Thabo Sefolosha
Sefolosha is the defensive specialist on the Thunder, not unlike Mbah a Moute on the Bucks. He doesn’t have much of a purpose on offense, also like Mbah a Moute. He should give John Salmons fits though, as that hasn’t been difficult for defenders good or bad this season. Every game there’s reason to hope this will be the game where Salmons is able to start a consistent streak of doing good work. Let’s all cross our fingers.
Advantage: Bucks (but it’s a lot closer than it should be)
Luc Mbah a Moute vs. Kevin Durant
If Durant plays, this should be a fun matchup. Mbah a Moute has only sporadically been guarding the best players on the opposition this season, so this will be his first extended test as Durant lines up with him at small forward. Both players have arms that go on and on, but Durant uses his to launch gorgeous jump shots that always find the bottom of the net. He’s nursing an ankle injury, but even so, he’s a guaranteed 20 points and tons of trouble.
Drew Gooden vs. Serge Ibaka
Jeff Green is doubtful for the Thunder, but Ibaka has stepped up in his absence. Ibaka has an absurd 136 offensive rating this season and is doing that with a usage of just 14.9%. He thrives off the ball, slamming home rebounds and finishing around the rim. He’s everything you want Larry Sanders to be and then some. Gooden was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary effort against the Sixers on Friday. He was hitting every jump shot he took, something that sounds crazy but really isn’t. It was just a matter of time before Gooden started hitting open shots. There’s no reason to expect he should shoot less than 45% as he has been all season. He’ll have to work hard to keep Ibaka off the glass Saturday night.
Andrew Bogut vs. Nenad Kristic
Kristic is one of the many role players plugged in around Durant and Westbrook. He’s a big body, no more, no less. Bogut hasn’t been much more than a big body on offense himself lately. Defensively, Bogut is still awesome, absolutely shutting down Elton Brand Friday in Philadelphia. The Thunder lack a big men of that caliber that Bogut will need to focus on, but he’ll have his hands full attempting to help on drives from Westbrook and Durant.
Corey Maggette, Keyon Dooling, Earl Boykins, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders and Jon Brockman
James Harden, Nick Collison, D.J. White, Eric Maynor and Royal Ivey
Oklahoma is a little thin at the moment, especially if Durant doesn’t play. Harden started on Friday for the first time in his NBA career and struggled with his shot a bit, hitting just two of eight. He’s their go-to-guy on the bench full of role players. Even if he’s the only one scoring, they still have guys who all know their roles and fill them well. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, no one seems to know what they’re supposed to be doing, specifically if they are supposed to be scoring. Maggette is getting buckets, but that may be coming at the expense of his teammates. Eventually Ilyasova will probably start making some shots, and hopefully Dooling will too. We’ll see how soon that happens though.
Prediction: Thunder 96 – Bucks 88
It’s hard to have much hope in this one after the way the Bucks played against the Sixers. Milwaukee is bound to figure things out eventually, but against a very good Oklahoma City team? That’s unlikely. Then again, I seem to get predictions wrong a lot more than I get them right, so who knows. I think that says as much about this Bucks team and their inconsistencies as it does about my basketball knowledge, but I’m a bit biased in that matter.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).