Keyon Dooling vs. Jrue Holiday
I was big on both Jrue Holiday and Brandon Jennings before the 2009 draft. I’m still big on both, but now I’m growing even more intrigued with Holiday, probably because I don’t see him as much and because Jennings hasn’t played in nearly a month. Holiday is coming into his own this season after a slow rookie year. He’s shown improvements virtually across the board while maintaining some of the better numbers he had last season. Holiday shot an unbelievable 39% on threes last season, even though he wasn’t touted as much of a shooter coming out of UCLA. That number has dipped a bit this season — he’s down to 34.9 from three — but he’s still a threat. What’s particularly impressive about Holiday is the solid mid-range game he’s displayed and his “sky’s the limit” defense.
John Salmons vs. Jodie Meeks
Jodie Meeks is excelling at the job he’s been given on offense. That can be said about virtually nobody on the Bucks entire roster right now, with the exception of maybe Earl Boykins. That’s frustrating. On the plus side, Salmons continued to play at a respectable level against San Antonio, even if most of his teammates didn’t follow suit. His accurate 3-point shot continues to please as well.
Luc Mbah a Moute vs. Andre Iguodala
This certainly isn’t the season everyone had in mind for Iguodala after a strong run as a defensive stopper with the U.S. team at the World Championships. Iggy’s shooting a career worst 42.8% from the field and has been battling injuries all season. Iguodala played 33 minutes in the Sixers 111-103 loss to the Pacers Tuesday and had one of the worst showings of his career, scoring just one point while missing all seven of his shots from the field. He’d missed the Sixers previous seven games and Coach Doug Collins admitted he may have overplayed him. He’s typically someone worth watching on the Sixers, but with some of their younger players performing well, may be an afterthought against the Bucks.
Ersan Ilyasova vs. Elton Brand
Brand was experiencing a sort of renaissance when these teams last met and while he hasn’t maintained the production he flashed earlier this season, he’s producing numbers in line with what he’s done over the past few years, but on fewer attempts and in a more efficient manner. Brand has become reliable and capable, rather than the reliable top tier power forward he was in his glory days with the Bulls and Clippers. But there is always something to be said for a player who is reliable, regardless of whether he’s producing a ton or not. The Sixers are likely much less worried about Brand missing 10 of 12 shots than the Bucks are with Ilyasova. The crap shoot at Milwaukee’s power forward slot doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to being solved.
Andrew Bogut vs. Spencer Hawes
At his best, Hawes is one of those nine points, eight rebound types at the five. At his worst? He gets yanked five minutes into games and doesn’t return, as was the case against Indiana on Tuesday. When Hawes is doing his best work though, mediocre as it is, the Sixers are a much better team. They simply don’t have the front court depth or talent to survive terrible, uninterested Spencer Hawes. Bogut wasn’t very productive against Hawes when these teams last met, and he’s battling some more injury woes and a virus right now, but Milwaukee could use at least the performance he gave against the Spurs, if not more.
Corey Maggette, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Drew Gooden, Earl Boykins and Jon Brockman
Thaddeus Young, Louis Williams, Mareese Speights and Andres Nocioni
Young had 23 points when these teams last met, so he’ll likely be dialed in again, looking for another big outing. Led by Young, the Sixers bench swung the game last time, something the Bucks can ill afford to let happen again. The talent on the Philly bench is greater individually than it is collectively, so Milwaukee’s defense must be able to maintain against a number of talented individual scorers. Offensively, it’ll be important that either Maggette or CD-R is able to contribute again after both struggled against the Spurs.
Prediction: Bucks 96 – Sixers 92
Milwaukee needs a win and needs to play well on offense. Much of their struggles have been attributed to injuries and a tough schedule so far. With a fairly healthy team heading to Philly to play a team that’s record is as suspect as the Bucks, Milwaukee needs to make the most of this first game of their “second life” this season. The Sixers lack much shot-blocking, they’ve only blocked 12 in their last seven games, so the Bucks may finally be able to do some damage at the rim and in the paint. Finishing will again be key for Milwaukee. If they’re able to make better than 50% of their shots at the rim, and they should, they should take this one down.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).