Reprieve from the West: Bucks – Hornets Preview

What to Watch For: Bucks (14-14)

The Milwaukee Bucks seem to still be figuring out what lineups will and won’t be effective without Jabari Parker, which is kind of fascinating to watch. Since Parker’s injury, no Bucks lineup has played more than 11 minutes together and only one lineup (Knight / Mayo / Giannis / Dudley / Pachulia) has appeared in each of Milwaukee’s past three games. Comparatively, the Hornets had one lineup play over 33 minutes in its past three games. It seems more than ever Milwaukee’s going to rely on its depth and quirk to manage going forward.

Ersan Ilysaova may be back, but Head Coach Jason Kidd said he won’t be starting.

What to Watch For: Hornets (9-19)

The Hornets are not enjoying being the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks any more than the Milwaukee Bucks enjoyed being the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks.

Allow me to explain.

The Hornets were a feel good story last season. They invested in Al Jefferson before the season started, but that was a move met with as much mockery and scorn as praise. He wasn’t seen as a piece that would get the then Bobcats into the playoffs, rather a piece that would keep them mediocre. But around Jefferson and Kemba Walker, a surprisingly strong defense emerged and wins came with frequency. The Bobcats were one of the league’s surprise teams, finishing 7th in the conference after having won just 21 games the season before. If you’ll recall, Milwaukee’s “Fear The Deer” Bucks traveled a similar path in 2009-10. Little to no expectations in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, only to see everything come together behind a strong defense.

So, after an off season that saw the well-received addition of Lance Stephenson, expectations were high this season … the same way they were for Milwaukee in 2010-11 with Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette joining a re-signed John Salmons and a rehabbing Andrew Bogut. But things didn’t work out for those Bucks. Jump shots didn’t fall, new teammates didn’t mesh and Milwaukee stumbled to a 35-47 record. And things haven’t worked out for the now Hornets either. Stephenson’s been both bad and apparently a pain and last season’s strong defense (5th in defensive rating) is a distant memory (19th in defensive rating).

It’s hard to be consistent without a couple great players.

Logistics:

Time – 7:00 p.m. CST  TV – FS-Wisconsin  Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova (nasal fracture; questionable); John Henson (foot; questionable); Damien Inglis (post-surgery — right ankle; out)

Hornets: Lance Stephenson (strained groin; questionable)

Projected Lineups

Bucks: Brandon Knight – O.J. Mayo – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Johnny O’Bryant – Larry Sanders

Hornets: Kemba Walker – Gerald Henderson – Michael Kidd-Glichrist – Cody Zeller – Al Jefferson

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

He has a horribly ugly jump shot and he’s missed a lot of time this year due to an injury, so perhaps he doesn’t leap off the page as a possible threat this evening. But he’s a significant threat – because he could be a Giannis deterrent. Kidd-Glichrist has the combination of strength and quickness to possibly bother Giannis and even cut off his driving lanes before Giannis creates them. He doesn’t really have the size to stop Giannis once the long forward gets going towards the basket, but MKG could absolutely hamper Milwaukee’s most entertaining player’s ability to do the thing that entertains the most: attack.

Prediction: The Bucks win, the opener is avenged.

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