JOHN SMASH (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Can John Henson keep up the impressive level of play he showed earlier this week? Will this be another hard-fought, low-scoring affair? Aren’t rhetorical questions fun? (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

What to Watch For: Bucks

The Bucks caught a huge break on Tuesday night when Joakim Noah and Luol Deng  didn’t play. The depleted Bulls frontline allowed John Henson to produce like a star and helped minimize the Bucks’ deficiencies in rebounding and post play. This time, however, figures to be a tougher challenge as Noah (and possibly Deng) re-enter the Bulls’ lineup. Henson has improved this year guarding opposing bigs and protecting the paint, but his disadvantage against physically-minded opponents has been well documented and figures to be put to the test against a rugged Bulls front line.

In addition, a day off between games should provide a much-needed boost for a team that as of now is playing miserably on the second night of a back-to-back. The Bucks are averaging a dismal 85 points per game in such situations, a number that rises to over 94 points per game with a day’s rest in between games. Larry Drew commented on the situation in his postgame comments on Wednesday, emphasizing that the team needs to find ways to play consistently regardless of scheduling situations and noting that this week would be a good learning experience–especially for the young players–as the team plays four games in five nights.

What to Watch For: Bulls

It looks like they’ll be able to suit up more than nine players in this game. If he plays, Deng is the offensive catalyst the Bulls have desperately needed of late: with Derrick Rose injured once again, Deng has led the Bulls with almost 20 points per game at the small forward position. The Bulls can’t be trusted to score 74 points again and Deng will be the player to keep an eye on.

If he doesn’t his fellow small forward, Mike Dunleavy, will bear watching as well. He picked up some of the slack on Tuesday night, scoring 24 points–a full third of the Bulls’ total, with 18 in the second quarter alone. Dunleavy is familiar to this team, having been a reserve for the Bucks for the last several seasons, and he’s averaged 20 points in his last three games. In a game where offense is sure to be sparse, he may provide the boost the Bulls need to continue their six-game winning streak in Milwaukee.

Logistics:

Time – 7:30 PM Central

TV – FS-Wisconsin

Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Zaza Pachulia (right foot fracture; out), Caron Butler (sore left knee; out), Gary Neal (left foot plantar fasciitis; out), Larry Sanders (thumb; out), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery; out)

Bulls: Derrick Rose (knee; out), Jimmy Butler (toe; out), Joakim Noah (thigh; day-to-day), Luol Deng (Achilles; day-to-day)

Projected Lineups

Bucks:

PG Brandon Knight

SG O.J. Mayo

SF Khris Middleton

PF Ekpe Udoh

John Henson

Bulls:

PG Kirk Hinrich

SG Tony Snell

SF Luol Deng

PF Carlos Boozer

C Joakim Noah

Jeremy’s For Recreational Purposes Only Prediction (aka Betsketball)

Line: Bulls -3

Over/Under: 177.5

I’m just going to ride the under until the Bucks disappoint. Is disappoint the right word there? Maybe instead of disappoint, that should read: resemble a NBA team. Back-to-back sub-80 point games for the Bucks. Even in 2010-11, when Milwaukee had its worst offensive season since the 70s, the Bucks failed to fall to such depths of offensive ineptitude.

Against the Bulls, even this form of the Bulls, breaking 90 points seems highly unlikely. Given Chicago’s own injury problems, I don’t expect a bunch of points in this game. I foolishly took the Bucks to cover the Spurs 11.5 last game. I’ll go Bulls -3 and the under.

Record: 15-11 (5-8 ATS and 10-3 over/under)

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Joakim Noah

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Joakim Noah is a big dude. He plays tough, gritty basketball. He likes to yell a lot. Not as much as Carlos Boozer, whose cries of “AND-ONE!” after every shot can be heard from the heavens themselves. But still, a fair amount.

He’s also been a key component in helping the Bulls grab 46.3 rebounds per game, good for third in the league. The matchup between Noah and Henson will likely prove to be crucial in determining which team-with-a-shaky-backcourt comes out on the winning end of the matchup.

Prediction: Bulls 89 – Bucks 86