Keyon Dooling vs. Mike Bibby
The two-headed point guard monster the Bucks have trotted out since the fall of Brandon Jennings has more than held its ground in the last two games. Against the Kings, Dooling and Boykins combined to make 14 of 29 shots en route to scoring 33 points. In Los Angeles, the numbers were 11 for 21 and 30 points. Offensively, there’s been no drop off since the Portland game. Dooling can hold up against nearly any point defensively too, and while Boykins gives up plenty of size, he makes up for it with his quickness and plays on a team that has Andrew Bogut. It’s an awful lot to expect of Boykins to think he’ll continue to shoot the lights out, but so long as Dooling and he are able to avoid disastrous games on the same night, Milwaukee appears in capable hands. You know the Bibby Story: shoots well, old, slow, gamer.
John Salmons vs. Joe Johnson
Johnson’s dealing with a numbers drop off this season, not quite to the depths to which Salmons has plummeted, but a fall from a higher peak indeed. Johnson is shooting just 40.8% after having made better than 43% of his shots each of his previous seasons in Atlanta. Salmons is still at just 37.8% himself so we’ve got quite a disappointing matchup on our hands. Salmons seems close to capturing what he had last season, dropping six assists while looking fully engaged in each of the last two games.
Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Marvin Williams
CD-R hasn’t been the dynamo he was in his first two starts in the last few games, but he still offers the threat of doing something positive offensively, which in itself is important. Williams is long, rangy and seems to have firmly cemented the fact that his surprisingly effective 3-point shooting two seasons ago was just a fluke. CD-R is considerably more likely to have a meaningful impact on this game, which doesn’t say much about Atlanta’s number two pick in the Bogut draft.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Josh Smith
Smith appears to be a better 3-pointer shooter than Ilyasova, having hit 40% of his shots to Ilyasova’s 28.6%. That’s a tad depressing, considering Smith had to remove that shot from his arsenal last season. Despite his increased accuracy from long range, Smith’s shooting percentage has dropped a few points from last season, while the rest of his game appears to be exactly the same as it’s been over the past three or four years. So much for development of a young player. He’s still dangerous though.
Andrew Bogut vs. Al Horford
Our main event. Horford will not go quietly on defense and will muscle Bogut as far off of his beloved blocks as he can. Bogut will work to prevent the short jump shots Horford holds so dear. They will do battle. Both men are vying for a reserve spot behind Dwight Howard on the Eastern Conference all-star team and both have made a viable case this season. Horford is being featured in Atlanta’s offense more than ever this season and has responded with very respectable numbers while maintaining a defensive presence. Bogut’s been great in December and surely will get up for a big game Monday.
Earl Boykins, Corey Maggette, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jon Brockman and Larry Sanders
Jamal Crawford, Zaza Pachulia, Josh Powell and Jeff Teague
Milwaukee’s been delving into the depth of their bench without Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette lately, and that could change if either or both of them play. Maggette seems more likely to return for Monday’s game, but both could play. Sanders received extended minutes in Sacramento and responded with four blocks and an alley-oop, pretty much the best that can be expected of him. Crawford is still an intense force of scoring energy off the bench while Pachulia does the same thing, except replace scoring with annoying the opposition’s big men.
Prediction: Milwaukee 94 – Atlanta 92
This won’t be easy either way. Milwaukee’s well rested and coming off a strong three game road trip out West. The Bucks don’t have any easy games on the horizon, so home games become all the more important as they battle to get back to .500. The Hawks are doing the same thing they’ve been doing the last few years, maintaining middle of the pack mediocrity in the East. They won’t be advancing far in the playoffs, but they won’t be dropping out. They don’t really have a crew that excels in one area enough to pull off a possible upset later in the season, but they have a crew solid enough to get them where they want to go initially. Milwaukee’s defense should factor in heavily tonight.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).