Enemy: Salt City Hoops
Brandon Jennings vs. Deron Williams
Williams is coming off a rough night in New Orleans against arch-rival Chris Paul. The Jazz fell to the Hornets by 29 and Williams was held to just 10 points and five assists. Surely, he’ll be looking to right the ship in Milwaukee. Jennings was instrumental in the Bucks fourth quarter comeback in San Antonio, but was unfortunately just as instrumental in the Bucks needing a comeback. He made just four of 18 shots against the Spurs, lacking the touch he’d shown frequently in the games before. Jennings is getting closer and closer to a reliable 40% shooter, which, when compared to his first season, isn’t such a bad thing. Especially for a 21-year-old.
Keyon Dooling vs. Raja Bell
Not a lot to get excited about here. Dooling will start is Salmons is unavailable and Bell is a 3-point shooter, gritty defender type for the Jazz. Dooling was much better than he’s been nearly all season in Dallas and serviceable in San Antoino. Milwaukee can get by with another serviceable night from him, so long as he keeps an eye on Bell and doesn’t let him get a bunch of easy looks from 3-point range.
Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Andrei Kirilenko
Inconsistency was a big problem for CD-R in New Jersey last season, so one has to wonder if that’s something he’ll battle at some point in this current season. Freed from the mess in the Swamp though, perhaps CD-R has found the situation that can allow him to be at his bets more often than not. So far so good at least. CD-R looked like the fit Salmons was last season in his debut as a starter in San Antonio. So long as he’s hitting those jump shots and finishing around the hoop, Milwaukee will continue to give him minutes and opportunities with the ball. Kirilenko is one of the league’s most reputable defenders and gave Milwaukee problems with his length and athleticism on the wing when the Bucks were in Utah.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Paul Millsap
Millsap gave Milwaukee fits on the glass when Bogut missed the Bucks game in Utah and he’s pretty much given everyone fits all year. He’s not the walking double-double that Carlos Boozer once was for the Jazz, but he can be just as productive on any given night. Ilyasova is a strong rebounder, but may struggle when trying to keep the bulky Millsap away from the hoop. This could be a night in which Gooden gets the lion’s share of the minutes again. Traditionally, Skiles plays the hot hand, so whoever that is at the four will play the most minutes.
Andrew Bogut vs. Al Jefferson
Once upon a time Jefferson was the last of the back-to-the-basket big men, with his slow feet and silky smooth post moves. He still can do a lot of the same things, but he certainly has a comparable offensive matchup in Bogut. And of course, Bogut is a far superior defender. Both centers could impact the game offensively, but only Bogut can change the game on the other end. Jefferson will be a good test for Bogut’s incredible defense of centers this season though.
Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Larry Sanders
Mehmet Okur, C.J. Miles, Earl Watson, Ronnie Price and Francisco Elson
Maggette’s role has fluctuated to the point he played just four minutes against the Spurs. If he’s going to get minutes, he’ll have to be aware defensively and keep the ball moving offensively. Milwaukee wants him to attack, but at the right times in the right spots. Gooden was strong against the Spurs and may be a better fit as a backup than as a starter. Okur just returned from injury and played only 11 minutes against the Hornets, but can certainly impact a game with his outside shooting.
Prediction: Bucks 96 – Jazz 88
Utah is coming off a tough loss in New Orleans, while Milwaukee has had two days of rest since nearly upsetting the league’s best team on the road. The Bucks have every reason to give a great effort and win this game. If Milwaukee is a very good team, they’ll find a way to beat the Jazz Saturday night, there confidence is too high and there are too many advantages for them emotionally coming in. A loss would be terribly disappointing for a team looking to establish itself at home and as a contender in the East in general.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).