(Before we get started on the preview today, I’d like to gently urge you to head over to the Bucksketball Facebook page. The good folks at Stubhub.com have graciously donated some tickets to Bucksketball and we’re giving them away to you. Just follow the directions over at the Facebook page (and go ahead and like the page while you’re at it) and you could win two tickets to Saturday night’s game against the New Orleans Hornets. Thanks.)
Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 1-2
Inactive: Chris Douglas Roberts, Michael Redd, Darington Hobson
Portland Trail Blazers (Nate McMillan) 3-1
Inactive: Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, Elliot Williams
Game Time: 7:00 PM (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
The Other Guys: Portland Roundball Society
Brandon Jennings vs. Andre Miller
Jennings is coming off what may have been the best game of his career on Saturday. He’s had a few days to rest up and reflect now and will maybe be able to put together another strong game. It’s great that he played so well Saturday, but the real challenge for Jennings this year will be whether he can continue to have strong games night in and night out. Consistency was a huge issue for Jennings last season when it came to shooting the ball. Milwaukee needs him to be a consistent shooter. Miller isn’t a bad matchup for Jennings; he certainly has the speed and quickness advantages. Miller is as strong and sturdy a point guard as there is in the league though and will look to use that to his advantage. He still isn’t much of a long range shooter though, so it’ll be interesting to see how Jennings plays him defensively.
John Salmons vs. Brandon Roy
He may still be finding his way, but Salmons is getting there. Salmons had 14 points and four assists against the Bobcats last game and looked much more spry than he previously had this season. He was 2-3 on 3-point shots, but doesn’t look like he trusts his legs to hit the long range shot yet. He’s often pump-faking when he catches and has a clean look from three and then attempting to drive around a defender he probably could have just raised up over had he never pump faked. It’ll be interesting to see how this part of his game develops over the course of the season. If Jennings is driving and kicking even more than he did last season, Salmons should be able to capitalize on open threes. Roy is still a great player, doing great player things. This season, he’s hit 44% of his 3-point shots, a considerably better percentage of makes than he hit last season (33%). Oddly enough though, Roy has seen his overall shooting percentage fall to 40% (he’s a life time 47% shooter). His 16-23 foot jumper hasn’t been there for him yet this year, but that will take care of itself as the season goes on. If he can keep shooting threes the way he has thus far, Roy’s leap to super-duper-star awaits him.
Carlos Delfino vs. Nicolas Batum
Delfino has been crazy from 3-point land this season. He’s second in the league in makes (12) and first in the league in attempts (26). His game has been much less about creating thus far and much more about spotting up. While that sounds like it could be a negative, it really has worked out for this team. Milwaukee doesn’t have a ton of outside shooting, and with Jennings taking on a heavy load of faciliitating, someone has to be ready to catch his passes on the outside. Delfino has been quick to shoot when he’s caught and that’s worked out. Salmons has been much more hesitant to release on jumpers off kick outs, preferring to drive more than he’s shot. Someone has to be ready to shoot, and that’s been Delfino so far. Batum hasn’t been bad himself though. The Blazers lengthy small forward (6’8 200 lbs) is 7-17 from behind the arc and shooting 54% from the field. His versatility has made him a very important part of the Blazers offense and, after Marcus Camby, arguably their best defensive player. Think early Tayshaun Prince. And then think better.
Drew Gooden vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Gooden is struggling. The most glaring number in his box score after Saturday’s game was the 0 in his defensive rebound column. Milwaukee needs him to be rebounding against the Blazers. Portland has been the best offensive rebounding team in the league in this young season, grabbing 37% of available offensive boards. If Gooden isn’t keeping Aldridge or Cunningham or Oberto off the glass, he won’t see many minutes tonight. He still looks like he’s taking a little too much upon himself offensively too. A couple offensive fouls called on Gooden looked to be the result of him pressing for a basket. Aldridge’s shooting numbers have been down a bit this season, but he’s been getting to the line more than ever. He’s still a central focus along with Roy in Portland’s offense. If Mbah a Moute gets heavy minutes, Portland may look to attack him with the much bigger Aldridge. How that will work out it could decide this game.
Andrew Bogut vs. Marcus Camby
You can bet at the end of the season, Bogut and Camby will be among the leaders in blocked shots and defensive rating. Two of the finest defensive centers in the league battle Tuesday night and I’m sure neither will look to give an inch to the other. Bogut is much more of a traditional back down offensive player, while Camby will look to pop out a bit. Milwaukee looks to Bogut as a featured part of the offense a lot more than Portland does to Camby. These two are among the league’s finest rebounders as well, and will surely control the glass all night long.
Corey Maggette, Ersan Ilyasova, Keyon Dooling, Jon Brockman and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Wes Matthews, Rudy Fernandez, Armon Johnson, Dante Cunningham and Fabricio Oberto
Johnson has been a scoring machine off the bench for Portland. He’s getting just seven minutes per game, but averaging 20 points per 36 minutes. Matthews and Fernandez are versatile swingmen who can do some different things. The mopey Fernandez has struggled this season, but Matthews has played well as a very pricey reserve. Maggette has yet to miss any of his 21 free throw attempts this season and Mbah a Moute had a fine game Saturday with nine points and nine rebounds. Aside from those two, it’s been slim pickings on the Milwaukee bench. Ilyasova was, as Scott Skiles put it, “given a night off” against the Bobcats but should see his minutes return Tuesday night. Before the game Skiles said Ilyasova needed to learn to become a “professional shooter” and that his role as a stretch four was important to the team. Milwaukee hasn’t given up on him just yet.
Prediction: Blazers 92 – Bucks 90
This one certainly won’t have your neck snapping back and forth in order for you to keep up with the action. The Blazers rank 28th in the league in pace, with the Bucks coming in just a bit quicker at 27th. The biggest difference is that the Blazers have been effective while keeping their pace down, while the Bucks have struggled significantly on offense. As Dan Sincair at BrewHoop pointed out yesterday, it isn’t necessarily that the Bucks aren’t getting shots that a lot of other teams are getting, it’s just that they aren’t making them. Portland’s defensive rating ranks just 17th in the league after four games though, so they aren’t a juggernaut that the Bucks won’t be able to penetrate. Even with Camby in the middle, the Blazers are a little soft up front. If Milwaukee can get Camby into foul trouble, they could win the points in the paint battle going away. Stopping a potent Blazers offense could be difficult though.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right) (free tickets)(I’m just saying).