Game 26 Preview: Bucks at Blazers

Enemy: Portland Roundball Society

Point Guard
Keyon Dooling vs. Andre Miller

For the first time in 107 games, the Milwaukee Bucks will not be starting Brandon Jennings.  Having hurt his foot/ankle on a hard fall against the Spurs in San Antonio, Jennings didn’t look like his normal self against the Jazz Saturday and revealed after the game that he in fact was not his normal self.  Dooling will get his second start of the season, and it’s probably coming at the right time for him.  Over his past five games Dooling has hit eight of 12 threes while averaging a respectable 8.4 points and 3.4 assists.  Miller is slow of foot – just ask Brandon Roy - but having a very strong season for Portland.  He still can’t shoot from outside, but he does everything else the Blazers need.

Advantage: Blazers

Shooting Guard
John Salmons vs. Wes Matthews

With Roy out with an injury, Matthews has received the bulk of the minutes at the two for Portland.  Matthews has a significant athleticism advantage over Salmons and when the Blazers visited Milwaukee earlier this season, showed off a nice touch from behind the arc.  Salmons looked like he was fitting in nicely next to new starting small forward CD-R last game, but collapsed down the stretch, shooting just one of six in the fourth quarter and generally forcing the issue like he’s done for so much of this season.  Milwaukee will need Salmons at his play making best without Jennings.

Advantage: Portland

Small Forward
Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Rudy Fernandez

Fernandez just wants to go home to Spain, and he’s been playing like it for most of the season, posting career low numbers across the board.  He responded to his insertion into the starting lineup for Nicolas Batum (injured) well last game though, scoring 15 points, dishing six assists and grabbing four rebounds.  He’s a versatile offensive player in the Carlos Delfino mold, but with more athleticism and less defensive prowess.  CD-R has looked good as a starter so far for Milwaukee and really helped to stabilize their offense.  There’s little reason to expect that to change against an average Portland defense.

Advantage: Milwaukee

Power Forward
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Dante Cunningham

If Portland’s centers are both out – both are listed as questionable – then Cunningham will get the start at the four with Aldridge moving over to the five.  Cunningham is only in his second year, but he appears on the way to a journeyman power forward career.  He does some things well, he can shoot it a little bit and grab some boards, but he’s undersized and lacks a particular stunning talent.  Ilyasova should be able to rebound from a rough night against the monstrous Jazz front line.  He needs to get going early though, so as not to see Drew Gooden steal away his minutes once again.

Advantage: Milwaukee

Center
Andrew Bogut vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

If both Camby and Przybilla miss the game with injuries, Aldridge or Cunningham will be matched up defensively with Bogut and give up significant size.  Aldridge thrives on the mid range jump shot, so Bogut may opt for the less prolific offensive player Cunningham when he’s on defense.  When the Bucks have the ball though, look for them to establish Bogut early and often.  He’s been on a roll lately and Milwaukee has performed well when they’ve been able to feed Bogut the ball.

Advantage: Milwaukee

Bench
Drew Gooden, Earl Boykins, Luc Mbah a Moute, Larry Sanders and Jon Brockman

vs.

Armon Johnson, Patty Mills, Sean Marks and Luke Babbitt

Portland is perilously low on reserves with as many as five players slated to miss Monday night’s game.  Of the three, Mills has played best lately, giving teams a significantly different look than Miller at the one with his speed and quickness.  Gooden has outplayed Ilyasova the last few games and could see big minutes again if Ilyasova is missing shots and unsure of himself early.  Boykins hasn’t played much over the past eight games, but could see more than spot minutes with Jennings out.  Corey Maggette is not with the team after a Raja Bell knee to the head had him suffering some concussive symptoms.

Advantage: Bucks

Prediction: Bucks 93 – Blazers 89

Milwaukee has another golden opportunity on the road against an ailing Blazers team.  Only Brandon Roy has been declared out for this one, but the Bucks could luck out and see as many as five Blazers rotation players watching this one from the sidelines.  The Bucks haven’t had to play without Jennings since his arrival, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds to a new floor leader for the majority of the night.  Dooling’s uptick in minutes and production lately provides some reason to be optimistic about their odds sans starting point guard though.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com.  Follow him on Twitter.  Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).

Categories: Game Previews

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