What to Watch For: Bucks
For the third time in exactly 30 days, the Milwaukee Bucks (6-21) will face the Charlotte Bobcats (13-15).
But let’s talk about what’s really important: Miroslav Raduljica.
Raduljica has scored in double digits in three of the last six games, including a career-high 14 points in Saturday night’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Per 36 minutes, Raduljica is averaging 16.0 points and 8.1 rebounds. He leads the team in true shooting percentage (61.3 percent), thanks in large part to competent free throw shooting (78.9 percent), and ranks second in PER (18.5) behind John Henson.
Of course, a small sample size largely inflates those numbers. His conditioning is certainly still a concern. Despite his size, he’s not a great defensive rebounder — he actually has a higher offensive rebounding percentage (14.1 percent) than defensive (11.3 percent). His slow foot speed and reaction time impede team defense. When Raduljica is on the court, the Bucks are giving up 107.6 points per 100 possessions, which is three points more than Milwaukee’s season average (104.2). However, the Bucks are scoring 100.4 points per 100 possessions with Raduljica on the court, compared to their 95.4 average.
Raduljica definitely has some offensive talent. While he tends to rush things when he gets the ball in the post, he possesses great hands near the basket and can finish with decent touch. He sets solid picks. His large mass allows him to corral offensive rebounds and execute putbacks with ease. It’s never pretty, but it’s effective.
While Raduljica’s ultimate ceiling seems fairly low, it’s been enjoyable to watch the 25-year-old rookie have a “breakout” of sorts — especially when one considers that he probably wouldn’t have seen the court much, if ever, had Larry Sanders and Zaza Pachulia remained healthy.
What to Watch For: Bobcats
There isn’t much more to say about the Bobcats. (Here are the previews from game one and two.) Charlotte, which has a defensive rating of 98.0, is a top-five defensive team under rookie head coach Steve Clifford. Only the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder boast a more stringent defense. More impressively, the Bobcats sit among that company with Al Jefferson as their defensive “anchor.”
On the other side of the ball, Charlotte struggles immensely — its 96.1 offensive rating ranks 29th in the league. The only team with a worse offense? Your Milwaukee Bucks.
In short, the Bobcats are similar to those traditional Scott Skiles teams with which Bucks fans are very familiar. They are scrappy, play great team defense and run some ugly offensive sets.
Time — 6 p.m. CST
TV — None (local)
Radio — 620 WTMJ
Bucks: John Henson (knee; questionable), Gary Neal (plantar fasciitis; questionable), Ersan Ilyasova (ankle; out), Zaza Pachulia (foot; out), Larry Sanders (thumb; out), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery; out)
Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hand; out), Brendan Haywood (foot; out), Jeff Taylor (Achilles’ tendon; out)
PG Brandon Knight
SG Giannis Antetokounmpo
SF Caron Butler
PF Khris Middleton
Ekpe Udoh Miroslav Raduljica (update)
PG Kemba Walker
SG Gerald Henderson
SF Anthony Tolliver
PF Josh McRoberts
C Al Jefferson
Jeremy’s For Recreational Purposes Only Prediction (aka Betsketball)
Line: Bobcats +7
The Bucks have been finding a way to score some points lately, though I’m not sure how reliable the “get to overtime to make sure we break 100 points” strategy is over the long term. Charlotte’s defense has been far too much for the Bucks to handle this season and I’m not sure this recent offensive uptick is going to last without another overtime or the Philadelphia 76ers underwhelming roster in play.
Bobcats +7, under 186.
Record: 17-15 (7-9 ATS and 10-6 over/under)
Choose the Form of the Destructor: Kemba Walker
These are the last four starting points guards to face the Bucks:
- Michael Carter-Williams — 19 points, 12 assists
- Kyrie Irving — 39 points, six assists
- Beno Udrih (!) — 21 points, five assists
- Jose Calderon — 18 points, one assist
So, it hasn’t been a great defensive showing of late for Brandon Knight. That’s a little disconcerting, given that Knight’s defensive physicality was supposed to compensate for his lack of offensive polish. Aside from individual scoring, Knight’s limitations on the offensive end are pretty apparent — his passes aren’t very crisp, he still lacks pick-and-roll awareness, and he doesn’t create many easy opportunities for his teammates. However, his defensive shortcomings are a bit less discernible. (Although it can be misleading, his defensive rating of 106.9 is fourth-worst on the Bucks.) Lately, it seems like he isn’t getting through screens quickly enough, but that may be a product of heavy minutes and tight scheduling.
Also, Kemba Walker is on a scoring tear. In his last five games, Walker is averaging 26.2 points per game on 62.3 percent shooting from the field. Keep an eye on this matchup.
Chris Douglas-Roberts Update:
The Bobcats apparently signed Chris Douglas-Roberts, who played one inauspicious season with the Bucks, on Dec. 11. He has scored one basket in 34 minutes.
Buzz City (?):
Bobcats Hornets basketball team unveiled its new “identity” Saturday.
My heart tells me the Bucks will win — can they really lose to the Bobcats three times in 30 days?
My head tells me the Bucks will lose — can they really win back-to-back games? (It hasn’t happened this season.)
Also, the tank.