[table id=26 /]
Enemy: The Heat Index
Keyon Dooling vs. Carlos Arroyo
Arroyo struggled mightily when these teams met earlier this week, hitting just one of seven shots. That probably will have no bearing on how he’ll preform this evening, but hopefully it doesn’t mean the law of averages catches up with him and allows him to make six of seven shots tonight. Really though, Arroyo has been a lights out shooter this year, thriving while getting one open shot after the next when he shares the court with “them.” Dooling’s 3-point shooting has taken quite a hit since he’s been starting for the injured Brandon Jennings: just seven of 30 in eight games. Milwaukee could use a couple from him tonight.
John Salmons vs. Dwyane Wade
Two games, two explosions for Wade against the Bucks. He’ll likely make it three for three tonight and I’ll likely curse his name each time he baits a Bucks defender into fouling him or crashes into someone in the paint and ends up on the free throw line. He’s real good at that kind of thing. And I hate him for it. (Note: I don’t really hate him, because I used to love Marquette, but I don’t love watching him destroy the Bucks.) John Salmons will play tonight, but I’d be foolish to try and predict whether he’ll be effective or not. Dionne Warwick’s psychic friends (or as Jim Chones may call her, Dionne Warrick) couldn’t even predict that.
Luc Mbah a Moute vs. LeBron James
Mbah a Moute wants to be physical with James and does a good job of not giving him much room to operate. Still, this is LeBron James and he’s going to have a big night that includes a fastbreak dunk or two and some nice passes to go with his customary three or four finishes in traffic at the rim. Meanwhile, we’ll all hope Mbah a Moute makes the one to three open jumpers he ends up with. We’ll probably hope that in vain though.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Chris Bosh
One of these days, Ilyasova will stop biting on pump-fakes as often as he gets defenders to jump on his own fakes. Until that day comes though, defenders will continue to blow by him with ease and end up either A. getting blocked by Bogut; B. drawing a foul on Bogut; or C. making a layup. That’s essentially every Ilyasova defensive possession, or at least a lot of them. Bosh was very good in the game earlier this week between these two, but little more than a decoy that occasionally made a jumper in the first game. He’s certainly capable of anything and will more likely have a game like the second one and not the first one.
Andrew Bogut vs. Zyndrunas Ilgauskas
And finally, here we are. The one spot in which the Bucks have the opportunity for an advantage. The word opportunity in that last sentence is important though, as Bogut’s unpredictable offense could leave the Bucks wanting more on any given night. Against Orlando and to a lesser extent Miami this week, Bogut’s touch was largely absent. He wasn’t hitting his short hook and floaters with much frequency and failed to even get many looks on post ups against the Heat. He was catching around the rim for dunks and tipping in misses some against Miami, but didn’t have the impact he’s capable of on either side of the ball really. In a game where Milwaukee is so heavily out-talented, Bogut NEEDS to step up for the Bucks to win.
Corey Maggette, Earl Boykins, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Larry Sanders and Jon Brockman
James Jones, Mario Chalmers, Juwan Howard and Joel Anthony
Milwaukee’s other edge rests with their bench. While offensively challenged at times, if Maggette is playing as well in short bursts as he did against the Magic, this is a group that can swing the game in the Bucks favor. Sanders was incredible against the Magic, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds, but the real key for Milwaukee will be Boykins and CD-R. If they are making threes and sparking the Bucks offense around Maggette or the regulars, Milwaukee has the shooting to stay with the Heat. That’s a big IF of course. Speaking of shooting, Milwaukee will need to stay glued to Jones all night long.
Prediction: Heat 106 – Bucks 94
It’s hard to predict that the Bucks will be effective on offense, at least until they can do so on a more consistent basis. And while Milwaukee limited the Heat for an entire game near the start of December and three quarters in Miami, their offense is so explosive that Milwaukee will have a hard time duplicating the defensive efforts they’ve had against them so far this season. A lot of things would have to go right for Milwaukee to stay in this game and even more would have to go right for the Bucks to win. It’s unlikely, but crazier things have happened.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).