A trip starts in Portlandia: Bucks – Blazers Preview

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

What to Watch For: Bucks

The Bucks start a four-game West Coast trip tonight in Portland, after which they will get a fairly long stay in the Bay Area. Perhaps the warm weather trip will do the Bucks some good.

Charles F. Gardner tweeted today that Larry Drew said that Ersan Ilyasova will not play more than one game in each of the team’s back-to-back affairs for the rest of the season because of an ankle injury that has nagged at him all season. That information begs the question: Why play him at all? If he has been nagged all season by the ankle, what good is it to have him play in the last 15 games of a season that has already seen the Bucks eliminated from the playoff race? He can’t make his trade value much better. He can’t learn much. Especially if he wants to play over the summer (¡ay, caramba!) for Turkey, he should be resting that ankle as much as possible.

What to Watch For: Blazers

The Blazers are on the skids a bit, having won the same number of games in their last six games as the Bucks have: one. Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge won’t play due to a bruised back. The Blazers have plenty to play for, as they remain within striking distance for the Western Conference’s 4-seed (Houston), while trying to hold off the 6th-seeded Golden State Warriors who sit just 1.5 games back of the Blazers.

A matchup to watch tonight is Damian Lillard vs. Brandon Knight. While Knight has gotten help at the point guard spot over the last month or so, he still functions as the de facto point guard on defense, often tackling the task of guarding the opponent’s primary ballhandler. He’ll likely be given the job of containing Lillard, who has become a better finisher in the paint as his sophomore campaign has progressed. Nate Wolters has the better numbers on defense, but it’s Knight who has typically been given much more difficult tasks by Drew. Decent containment by Knight will go a long way toward giving the Bucks a chance in this game.

Logistics

Time – 9:00 p.m. CST

TV – Fox Sports Wisconsin

Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Carlos Delfino (foot; out), Larry Sanders (face; out)

Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge (lower back contusion; out) and Joel Freeland (knee sprain; out)

Projected Lineups

Bucks: 

PG Nate Wolters

SG Brandon Knight

SF Khris Middleton

PF Ersan Ilyasova

Zaza Pachulia

Blazers:

PG Damian Lillard

SG Wes Matthews

SF Nicolas Batum

PF Dorrell Wright

Robin Lopez

Choose the form of the Destroyer: Dorrell Wright

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

With LaMarcus Aldridge out, the Blazers are going to go small against the Bucks. That leaves Milwaukee with the challenge of figuring out how to defend Portland when they spread the floor with shooters. Nicolas Batum can shoot, Dorrell Wright can shoot, Wes Matthews can shoot — and those guys are playing with a big (Robin Lopez) and a point guard (Lillard) who can run pick and roll quite well.

If John Henson ends up on Wright, then he may have an edge of offense in the post, but he’ll have big trouble getting out to guard Wright. If Ilyasova ends up with the job, he may defend the three-point line better, but will he have any real edge over Wright?

Ideally, the Bucks would start Khris Middleton at power forward, and bump Giannis Antetokounmpo into the starting lineup for this game. Ersan doesn’t need the minutes for his development, and Giannis would get a change to play against someone whom he should model his game after.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen that way because that would take foresight. As such, Dorrell Wright will likely make a lot of threes.

Prediction: Blazers 102 – Bucks 92

Categories: Game Previews

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