Game 18 Preview: Bucks at Nuggets
Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 6-11
Inactive: Andrew Bogut, Carlos Delfino, Michael Redd
Denver Nuggets (George Karl) 10-6
Inactive: Kenyon Martin
Time: 8:00 PM (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
Enemy: Roundball Mining Company
Brandon Jennings vs. Chauncey Billups
Before playing the actual best point guards in the league last season, Jennings said Billups was actually the best point guard in the league. Then he put 30 on Billups and hasn’t said such nonsense since. No, Billups isn’t the best point guard and actually, the 34-year-old Billups may no longer be better than Jennings. Everyone assumes Jennings is the least reliable shot making point guard in the league (and by everyone, of course I mean me), but Billups is giving Jennings a run for his money. Chauncey has hit just 36.6% of his shots this season and only 34.9% of his threes, both worse numbers than Jennings has produced. And, despite playing in the up-tempo Nuggets offense (third in the league in pace), Billups is averaging just 4.9 assists per game against 2.7 turnovers. Perhaps Billups is no longer the best fit for an offense that seems to thrive with a quick point guard like his backup Ty Lawson. Oddly enough, he may be a better fit for a slower team like the Bucks while Jennings could thrive in a more open court game like the one the Nuggets play. Oh well.
John Salmons vs. Arron Afflalo
Salmons is second on the Bucks in minutes and has to be close to last in effectiveness this season. Now that both Chris Douglas-Roberts and Corey Maggette are healthy, will Salmons still continue to see more than 30-minutes-per-game? Defensively he’s far better than either CD-R or Maggette, so I wouldn’t be on a significant minute drop, but it certainly is something to keep an eye on. Another one for 11 outing like he had in Utah won’t do his cause any favors. Afflalo has been a very accurate shooter from deep and everywhere else this season, hitting 43.4% of his shots from three and 50.4% from the field overall. He’s also a plus defender. More or less, he’s everything I’d like for Luc Mbah a Moute to be some day. But I dream … I dream.
Advantage: Denver (unless last season’s Salmons shows up)
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs. Carmelo Anthony
Anthony is fighting the flu, which is a much more difficult opponent than the Milwaukee Bucks at this point in the season. ‘Melo told the Denver Post he would try and give it a go against the Bucks, but isn’t sure if he’ll be able to play. I’m willing to bet he plays and scores around 20 points, but isn’t his typical effective self on the glass. Mbah a Moute won’t make it easy for him offensively, but he will make it easy for him on offense. If Anthony is truly ill, it would be nice to see Mbah a Moute crashing the glass especially hard on the offensive end to make him work. That’s a real strength of Mbah a Moute and I’m sure he’ll be active.
Larry Sanders vs. Shelden Williams
Here comes a battle you’ll never forget. Actually, if Williams could get more minutes, his numbers might be fairly impressive. That’s always been the problem with Williams though, he’s not good enough at anything to actually deserve more than 15 minutes-per-game. He’s capitalizing on Kenyon Martin’s absence right now and producing a little bit, but he’ll soon enough be back at home on the end of the bench when Martin returns. Sanders struggled horribly with boxing out against the Jazz and failed to make much of an impact at all. I don’t expect the same problems against a significantly less talented matchup in this one. Still, Williams is a more reliable for six points and six rebounds at this stage in his career than Sanders. Less foul prone too.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Nene Hilario
Hilario could be the Bucks biggest problem Wednesday night. His offensive rating this season is a powerful 125 this season and he’s been a force around the rim, finishing on 74.5% of his attempts. Surprisingly, Nene has attempted just eight shots per game this season. For a player as efficient and dominant around the hoop as he is, he sure doesn’t get many looks. If he’s able to use his size, strength and quickness advantages to wreak havoc on the offensive glass the way Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson did the other night, he could be in store for a lot of easy buckets at the rim or free throws as a result. Ilyasova’s jumper has been on lately and Milwaukee will need his hot streak to continue. Over the past three, he’s shooting 48.4%, which isn’t great for a power forward/center, but he balances that out by hitting 46.1% of his threes over that time span, averaging 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. That is the shooting Milwaukee expects out of their stretch four.
Keyon Dooling, Corey Maggette, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Earl Boykins
Al Harrington, J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson and Chris Anderson
Take another look at the Nuggets bench. Wow. They have a boatload of offensive talent on their second unit and could do some big time damage against the Bucks backups, even if Maggette is ready to go. Milwaukee would benefit a ton from a strong game from Dooling, who hasn’t had many of those this season. Smith is ready to explode at any moment and Lawson uses his speed and quickness very well inside of the Nuggets high octane offense.
Prediction: Nuggets 108 – Bucks 93
This may not be pretty. Without Bogut, Milwaukee doesn’t have its defensive anchor to stop the high powered Nuggets offense. Denver can beat a team from the outside or inside, and the rebounding problems Milwaukee had against Utah seem to indicate that they are ripe for exposure inside again. The Bucks were able to stick with the Jazz for three quarters thanks largely to some hot shooting that they couldn’t sustain. Milwaukee isn’t likely to shoot as well from downtown as they did for the first three quarters of the Jazz game, but it’s possible they could rebound better. If they can do that and have a less offensive offensive output than they typically do, this may not be the blowout I’m envisioning. But why should anyone suspect the Bucks shoot better than 40% at this point?
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).
Categories: Game Previews