What to Watch For: Bucks
O.J. Mayo went ahead and decided to carry over his hot preseason action into the regular season as well. After burning several Midwestern gyms to the ground in exhibition play, Mayo has averaged 21 point in his first two games on a totally sustainable 61% field goal percentage. If he keeps up this kind of pace coming off of the bench, don’t be terribly surprised to see him supplant Khris Middleton or Jared Dudley in the starting lineup in the near future.
Speaking of lineups, it’ll also be worth watching to see how Jason Kidd continues to feel out rotations for his young team. While I still wouldn’t put too much stock in the minutes distribution of any one game, the ebb and flow of playing time in the stacked point guard (Brandon Knight, Kendall Marshall, Jarryd Bayless, Nate Wolters) and power forward (Jabari Parker, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova) positions should start to reveal some more concrete rotations and give us a sense of the coach’s preferences going forward.
On defense, interior and rim protection will be key. After giving up 46 points in the paint to Philadelphia, the Bucks face a dangerous point guard in John Wall who has the ability to get to the rim early and often. If Sanders and Henson can hang out and clean up some inside shots off of Wall’s dribble penetration they may be able to swing key possessions and some momentum back toward the Bucks’ transition offense.
What to Watch For: Wizards
I’ve heard people say that John Wall might be the fastest player in the NBA, which I can’t really verify but also don’t doubt at all. My love for ridiculously athletic players (whether it’s in the ability to jump high or run really fast) means I’m also a big fan. Last night he eviscerated the Orlando Magic to the tune of 30 points and 12 assists and dragged the Wizards to a 105-98 win. It’ll be interesting specifically to see him line up against Knight, which will not only be a battle of former Kentucky Wildcat point guards but also a matchup of great athletes who came into the league and faced questions as to whether they could pull it together and become complete basketball players. For Wall, it was the ability to develop a respectable jumper to complement his already-effective passing and to improve on his decision-making while keeping a level head.
But he appears to be figuring it out. A key to the Bucks’ success tonight will be keeping Wall out of the paint and forcing him to rely on that better-than-it-used-to-be-but-hopefully-still-questionable jumper. If he’s allowed to drive and kick to Washington’s young shooters or have success in the pick and roll with Nene or Marcin Gortat, Wall could have another huge game and make the Bucks miserable on defense all night long.
Time – 6:30 p.m. CST TV – FS-Wisconsin Radio – 620 WTMJ
Bucks: Damien Inglis (foot, still out); Johnny O’Bryant (knee, remains inactive)
Wizards: Bradley Beal (fractured wrist, gonna be on the bench for a while)
Bucks: Brandon Knight – Jared Dudley – Khris Middleton – Jabari Parker – Larry Sanders
Choose the Form of the Destructor: Marcin Gortat
He looks like a supervillian’s right-hand strong man. He shows up to basketball camps in Humvees. He may or may not stroll around malls with his pet pig. And because he wasn’t fearsome enough before, Marcin Gortat decided that he would sport a Mohawk haircut this year.
When he came over to Washington in a trade from Phoenix (who, fun fact, also involved moving one Kendall Marshall to Washington in exchange for Emeka Okafor and the Wizards’ 2014 first-round draft pick), Gortat impressed the team, averaging a near double-double of 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in his first full season with the team. He was also rewarded with a 5-year, $60 million deal to stick around as the team’s starting center going forward. He’s also coming off of a tidy 20-point, 12-assist game in Washington’s last game and figures to pose a menacing (and bruising) post threat against the Bucks’ long-and-lean frontcourt.