A matchup of even Stevens: Bucks-Heat Preview

What to Watch For: Bucks (10-10)

We were warned about this schedule, right?

After tonight, the night five games for the Bucks include road trips to visit Western Conference powers sandwiched around a home date to host the Clippers: @DAL, @OKC, vs. LAC, @PHX, @POR.

Subtracting OKC from the picture — because they are a completely different team than their current 5-13 record with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook recovered and healthy — the other four teams have a combined won-loss record of 54-22.

So suffice it to say that the Bucks need a win tonight at home against a team that is “just” 0.500 to snap a season-worst three-game losing streak before it turns into something much, much worse.

What to Watch For: Heat (9-9)

This team is a bit of a mess, especially if Norris Cole and Luol Deng — two of the team’s best two-way contributors — miss the game with injuries. Cole was suffering from an illness and sore finger on his left hand. Deng hurt his hand against Atlanta Wednesday and had a significant wrap on it Thursday.

Speaking of the game against the Hawks, the Heat had all sorts of trouble keeping point guard Jeff Teague and his backup, Dennis Schröder, from slicing them up for points. The duo combined for 43 points (16/20 FG) and 9 assists. Point guard defense — and in a related way, dribble penetration — is a big issue for Miami, and Dwayne Wade identified it as such Thursday.

If the Heat don’t have Cole, the problem only gets exacerbated even more.

Brandon Knight was the game’s leading scorer the last time these two teams met, and there’s no reason to think that won’t happen again tonight.

Logistics:

Time – 7:30 p.m. CST  TV – FS-Wisconsin  Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova (nasal fracture; out); John Henson (foot; out); Damien Inglis (post-surgery — right ankle; out); Johnny O’Bryant (right knee sprain; out)

Heat: Chris Andersen (sprained ankle; out); Norris Cole (illness/dislocated left middle finger; questionable); Luol Deng (bruised right hand; questionable)

Projected Lineups

Bucks: Brandon Knight – O.J. Mayo – Jabari Parker – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Larry Sanders

Heat: Norris Cole – Dwyane Wade – Luol Deng – Josh McRoberts – Chris Bosh

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Larry Sanders

Larry Sanders has to potential to be an effective NBA starter or his own worst enemy.

The Bucks — playing at home and desperate for a win tonight against a clumsy, unhealthy team — have every reason to expect that they end the night victoriously.

Unfortunately, a potential problem lurks. Bad Larry Sanders has taken Good Larry Sanders and stuffed him in a closet somewhere. Every call that doesn’t go his way triggers an overemotional response, and his teammates have smartly activated the Larry Cooldown Protocol to deal with such reactions, shuffling him away from the refs and opponents to a quiet recovery spot.

In other words, we’re back to where we used to be with Sanders for most of the past three seasons.

But these reactions have been on the uptick of late and Sanders has a bevy of technical fouls and near-technical fouls to his name after having none for most of the first month of the season. This game between two teams exactly at 0.500 is exactly the type where the extra free throws and possessions from a technical or flagrant foul could give the Bucks’ opponent just enough of an advantage to eke out a win.

Prediction: Brandon Knight hits another clutch shot at home

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