The Scott Skiles leftovers showdown: Bucks at Bulls preview.

Phoenix was easy. Now Boylan gets his first real test as head coach. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jim Boylan is now at the helm of the Milwaukee Bucks’ ship and he is riding into a storm. He is going to get tested early.

The Milwaukee Bucks ushered in the regime of their new head coach with a 108-99 victory over the lowly Phoenix Suns, the Western Conference’s second worst team.

While the opinion of the team going forward shouldn’t be defined by Tuesday’s result, there were some very encouraging things to take note of. Brandon Jennings made more shots than usual and seemed comfortable with picking spots to score and spots to get others involved.  He even threw a couple of nice alley-oops to Larry Sanders and John Henson, which may be a wrinkle to look for in the next few games.

The team seemed to be a bit more relaxed and, I kid you not, there were a few smiles at certain junctures of the game, mainly when Sanders blocked a shot out of bounds and, how shall we put it, “searched for it,” much to everyone’s amusement. The Bucks, and Sanders especially, were a spectacle on Tuesday.

The Bulls (19-13) sit at 2nd in the Central, 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks.  If the Bucks want to stick around in this division race, then consistent, high-energy efforts need to become more of a mainstay in the season, especially considering the two teams in front of them in the Central are holding things down until their injured stars can return (which isn’t so far down the road for Chicago).  The time is now for the Bucks if they are serious about contending for this division and/or a playoff spot.

Key Matchup:

Carlos Boozer versus the Bucks’ frontcourt. While many criticize Carlos Boozer for oftentimes not playing up to this contract, he has been playing exceptionally well. Well enough to sneak up on a Bucks team that is already distracted with a lot their own problems. The Bulls have been surging, winners of four of their last five. Boozer has been the key here. Over his past three games Boozer has been at his best, averaging 27.3 points, 11.3 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field. If the Bucks can contain Boozer, look for their chances to drastically improve in this one.

Bulls: What to watch for

Unlike the Bucks, the Bulls have strung together a nice little run as of late. Again, Carlos Boozer is playing well and the defensive efforts of Tom Thibodeau and his staff has Chicago the third stingiest defense in the NBA. Opponents average about 91 points against Chicago. It really just depends on if that defense will affect Jennings and Monta Ellis. You really don’t know what to expect with those two but what you CAN expect is for Thibs to have his guys ready for tonight defensively.

Bucks: What to watch for

How will the Bucks react to the win over Phoenix?

As our own John Hartzell put it, the Bucks react to momentum like … something that doesn’t react to momentum.  This team struggles to build on anything that led to traces of optimism from the previous game.  They’re also not very consistent.  Consider this:  the Bucks are 7-2 in the first leg of a back-to-back game, but only 2-6 in the second game.  Factors like travel and minute loads certainly play a factor in these games, but the Bucks usually come out flat in game two, something they can’t afford against the division foe Chicago Bulls.

(Jeremy’s Note: Probably because momentum from game to game is largely something created by the media in search of narratives to write about because they hate having to write “They missed/made shots”. Today might be the last day you see the word momentum on this website.)

Where and when?

Fox Sports Wisconsin at 7:00pm.

Random thought of the game

Soooo….. Derrick Rose is almost back and this is all the progression the Bucks have made in the Central? Oh, OR if Chicago is this good post-Skiles, will the Bucks be too? Choose one.


Quasi-low scoring affair. Bulls 97, Bucks 87.

This preview was co-authored by Tony Atkins and Eric Buenning.

Categories: Game Previews

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  1. As usual in any game against our southern neighbors, both teams’ fans are NOT going to want to loose this one.

    I hope the Bucks players share our determination to win!!!

    Go Bucks!

  2. These back-to-back games, when the regulars
    might be lacking in energy or just lackadaisical,
    would be a good time to play Tobias Harris
    and perhaps other seldom-used reserves who might
    respond enthusiastically to a chance for quality minutes.

    • I think that would be nice to see. I’m sure Boylan is going to rotate smartly, he has been around the league so long, he knows a players limits, he’s been training them for years. He is a players coach.. However, I cannot say how well his play calling will work out down the stretch.