(Preview is a little light today, I’ll explain later.)
Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 1-4
Inactive: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Darington Hobson, Michael Redd
Indiana Pacers (Jim O’Brien) 2-2
Inactive: Lance Stephenson, Brandon Rush, Jeff Foster
Game Time: 6:00 CST
Television: Nah, not in Milwaukee
Brandon Jennings vs. Darren Collison
Two young point guards, both battling inconsistency. Collison set the league on fire for a while last season when replacing Chris Paul in New Orleans, but he’s had some ups and downs in Indiana. Collison’s shooting just 37% on the year, but he’s nearly maintained his assist rate from last season (32% last year, 30% this year). Jennings’ shot has been inconsistent this season, just like it was last season. He’s done a good job setting up teammates, but needs to make himself more of an offensive threat every night. Of course, Jennings can still do something amazing on any given night. The highs and the lows with him can be maddening.
John Salmons vs. Mike Dunleavy
Salmons/Dunleavy isn’t exactly Jordan/Drexler in terms of star power or success this season. Salmons has been battling inconsistency all season, possibly due to a knee injury, possibly due to the bizarre occurrence where he isn’t very good in first halves of NBA seasons. He’s been, in a word, awful for Milwaukee. Dunleavy hasn’t been any better, shooting 34% on the year from the field and a meager 26% from the arc. His sense of where to be on the court has always been a strength of his, but you wouldn’t know that judging from his 10 turnovers and nine assists in his first four games this season.
Carlos Delfino vs. Danny Granger
Granger has long been the Pacers best player and he’s still scoring and shooting a good percentage, only now he’s getting more help from his teammates. He has the size and length to give Delfino problems defensively too, but he isn’t the furious off ball defender that will chase Delfino through screens with a vigor. If Milwaukee gives Delfino enough screens, their best shooter will have some looks this evening.
Drew Gooden vs. Josh McRoberts
I know, right? Josh McRoberts? Seriously? When my friends want to make fun of something about the NBA, this season, they’ve pointed at the Pacers starting power forward. But you know what? McRoberts hasn’t been bad this year. He’s shooting 54% and has even hit four of his eight 3-point attempts. He knows his limitations on the court and doesn’t overdo it. Drew Gooden on the other hand, struggles with this. He often drives furiously into the paint, hell bent on getting to the basket. In the past two games though, Gooden has seemed to make much more of an effort to get the ball to his teammates instead of looking for his own shot.
Andrew Bogut vs. Roy Hibbert
Hibbert has been good this season, 16 points, 9.5 rebounds and a surprising 4.3 assists. His shooting percentage is down to just 44% though, after he hit nearly 50% of his shots last season. The biggest reason for his scoring improvement, is Hibbert’s increased free throw rate. After taking just four a game last season, he’s up to six and a half this year. Bogut’s been up and down, but found himself last game. Milwaukee’s made a concerted effort since the second game to get him the ball in the post. He attempted a season high 17 shots against the Celtics and took six in the first quarter. Worth mentioning, Bogut’s first ever 30-point game came against the Pacers last season in Indiana. Hmm.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Corey Maggette, Ersan Ilyasova and Keyon Dooling
T.J. Ford, Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George and Solomon Jones
The minutes of Mbah a Moute and Ilyasova largely depend on the play of Gooden. The more he figures things out, the less minutes they’ll see. Ilyasova’s rotation spot in general depends on him hitting open shots, something he’s struggled with in the early parts of this season. Maggette continues to get to the free throw line constantly, though the Bucks rarely play better while he’s on the court. That could be a continuation of his career trend, or it could be due to the Bucks not working well together yet. The Pacers bench is a collection of cast-offs and the rookie Paul George. Not much to get excited about there.
Prediction: Milwaukee 94 – Indiana 87
The Bucks played their best offensive game of the season against the Celtics, largely because of a much better performance out of the bench. Dooling and Ilyasova are much better shooters than they appeared to be after the first four games and that came out in Boston. They combined to go 9-17 from the field and 4-7 on threes. Milwaukee’s been lacking for shot making more than anything else this season. Against a friendly Pacers defense (23rd in the league in defensive rating), Milwaukee should be able to get open looks tonight, it’s just a matter of making shots for them.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).