UPDATE: Tonight’s game has been postponed due to weather conditions in Atlanta. It will be made up March 15th. Tomorrow’s Bucks game at home against San Antonio will be played as scheduled.
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Keyon Dooling vs. Mike Bibby
Dooling has far more freedom to impact games than Bibby. It seems as though if it were practical, Atlanta would replace their starting point guard with some sort of machine that never ventured inside of the arc and only shot 3-pointers. Milwaukee’s point guards, on the contrary, are heavily involved with the Bucks offense and have a significant hand in figuring who is getting what shots. Dooling has only twice had fewer than five assists since stepping in for the injured Brandon Jennings. I wouldn’t expect Tuesday night to differ any for him. In the last meeting between these teams, Dooling had 15 points and nine assists.
John Salmons vs. Joe Johnson
Johnson has posted three consecutive games with 10 or more made field goals and shot better than 50% in each game. That sort of reliability is what Atlanta paid for this past off-season and something the Bucks can only dream about. Salmons annual slow and steady incline is on track, as he’s hit 40% of his shots in January. His monthly shooting percentages: 33%, 37%, 39.5% and 40%. Perhaps we’ll once again see Salmons take off as the year carries on, even without his annual February trade. Bully.
Luc Mbah a Moute vs. Josh Smith
After virtually an entire season up to last week without much productivity at the three, Milwaukee’s had a strong two games from their small forwards. Chris Douglas-Roberts has scored 24 and 30 points in his past two games and, in starting with Andrew Bogut out, Corey Maggette tallied 20 points on five of nine shooting against the Nets. Meanwhile, Mbah a Moute was often moved over to his more natural power forward position where he played as well as he typically does there. Smith, like Mbah a Moute but more effectively, can also switch between the three and the four. When the Hawks use their big lineup as they did against Milwaukee last time, he starts at the three and causes the Bucks problems there.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Al Horford
More naturally a center, Horford is a load at the four. He’s been more consistent than ever this season and can effectively shoot the ball out to 15-feet. He’s a huge matchup problem for both centers and forwards because of his strength and his quickness. Ilyasova is coming off a strong game against the Nets (22 points, 13 rebounds), one in which he spent the majority of the night at center. Stringing together more than one or two solid games has been an issue for Ilyasova this season and with Drew Gooden possibly returning, the pressure will be on him to produce in Atlanta.
Andrew Bogut vs. Jason Collins
Some how, some way, Collins has a productive game against the Bucks when these teams last met in Milwaukee. He grabbed double digit rebounds for the first time in a long time and generally impacted the game way more than he ever should be able to against a team like Milwaukee. Bogut will return after an illness fell him for the Nets game and Milwaukee needs not only for him to return, but to play well offensively again. In four January games, Bogut is shooting just 39%, a bad number for a guard and an abysmal number for a post player with a team operating around him.
Corey Maggette, Earl Boykins, Larry Sanders, Jon Brockman, Drew Gooden and Chris Douglas-Roberts
Maurice Evans, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Zaza Pachulia and Josh Powell
Milwaukee’s bench has been playing some of their finest basketball of the year as of late. Boykins has been a godsend ever since Jennings went down, averaging 15.4 points per game in nine games. CD-R and Maggette, as noted earlier, appear on the right track for the first time in a long time and even Brockman and Sanders have contributed in their energy roles lately. Gooden’s return would likely leave Brockman or Sanders with the short straw with regards to minutes though. Crawford is a feared scorer and Pachulia is never afraid to get nasty, but outside of them, Atlanta’s bench is lacking.
Prediction: Bucks 97 – Hawks 92
Milwaukee’s strongest basketball of the season will get a stern test in the form of a Hawks team that’s won 10 straight at home. Home court may not be much of an advantage Tuesday though, as the typically dead Phillips Arena will probably be virtually empty. A snowstorm has struck down South and Atlanta is looking and feeling a lot more like Milwaukee than usual. It could be the perfect time for the Bucks to get another big road win against a conference rival they know very well.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).