It’s been a while since I’ve been around. Giving up Blazers’ Edge while at work for Lent has made me more productive in the office, but I haven’t been seeing all of your smiling faces :) as much as I used to. But as Bucks’ Ambassador, I have a job to do, though not enough time to fulfill my other one. Fortunately, St. Bayno has been stepping up in my absence and doing a far better job than I could ever hope to do. But back on subject….
The Milwaukee Bucks are somewhat of an enigma. At 31-39, the Bucks don’t look like the most dangerous team that the Blazers have played. We might be tempted to think that this will be an easy win. But the Bucks are in the race for the Playoffs (although they’re now 1.5 games back) and a few days ago sent the Celtics home with a loss. You can’t take them lightly. Of course, Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, their two best players are out for the season with injuries, so we don’t have to deal with them. But that leaves a lot of players that play either hot or cold. Depending on how they’re shooting, they’ll score anywhere from 80 to 120.
The first player to watch out for is Richard Jefferson. As John Hollinger pointed out recently, Jefferson and Outlaw are very similar players. It’s just that Milwaukee has to rely on Jefferson as their number one option. When Jefferson is hitting shots, no one can stop him. If he’s not hitting shots, then he doesn’t give the Bucks very much, although his defense is better than Outlaw’s.
But Jefferson isn’t the only Outlaw-like player on the team. Charlie Villanueva is the 2 in their 1-2 punch right now. And his game is remarkably like Outlaw’s as well. Can hit from all over the floor. Might play worse defense. Might even make Channing Frye’s post defense look good.
Can you imagine what it would be like to have two Travis Outlaws on one team? If they’re both on, then it makes the opponents cry. If they’re both off, then it’s double the garbage. But usually at least one of them has a good game, giving 50-50 odds on an average night.
Rounding out the top three is second-round draft pick Ramon Sessions. Sessions is a very good player. He can Score, dish and rebound. All good thing from your starting point guard. However, Sessions does all these things because he can’t hit an outside shot. Fortunately for them, other players (Jefferson, Bell, Bogans, even Villanueva) are legitimate threats from outside, so packing the lane isn’t the best idea against him.
Speaking of outside shooting, Charlie Bell can come off the bench and give them range. He has an uncanny ability to hit half-court buzzer-beaters at the end of quarters, and is no slouch from downtown. Keith Bogans has also been doing well for them in this role as well.
Luc Mbah a Moute has been another second-round surprise, stepping into the starting line-up as a defender and rebounder. He’s to the Bucks what Batum is for us. Not neary as athletic as Batum, but brings energy and toughness, which is what Skiles wants. And this is also why Luke Ridnour has been getting plenty of backup minutes. Now, Ridour doesn’t exactly scream defense, but he gives the effort and energy for them.
Unfortunately, the Bucks best players (save Charlie Villanueva) are all back-court players. Starting center Francisco Elson’s saving grace is that he’s tall. His backup, Dan Gadzuric plays like Channing Frye without the outside shooting. The bigs are so bad that Malik Allen is getting time (20 minutes vs. Orlando!) This is why during crunch time, Skiles will sometimes go small. And by small, I mean really small. Do not be surprised to see Villanueva at the 5, Jefferson at the 4 and both PGs in the game. That way, they have their best players on the floor. But to pay for the offensive punch, their defense usually gets sacrificed. Not exactly what Skiles is known for, but you can’t win if you can’t score.
Portland’s keys are simple, but not exactly what they’re known for. Play inside. No one is going to stop you. Aldridge back-downs, Roy drives, Przybilla free-throws should be the bulk of our offense. And when they key in on that, then the three-point shooters need to hit their shots. All that is if Aldridge is playing. if not, it’s hope that Oden can get something going in the time he’s in. And maybe some Jerryd Bayless time. It’ll be a long night if we have to rely on jumpers the whole game.
Also, we need to come with that defensive energy that we’ve had the last few games. Force the opposing players into more difficult shots. Put their shooters on ice in the first and it will go a long way to winning this game. That takes energy, but it is energy well spent against a team like this.
I am going to my first live Blazer game in probably ten years. Their center court, one row back… in the upper bowl. I just hope Milwaukee fans are more laid back about Bucks-Blazers than they are about Packers-Bears, since I’m going to be wearing my Blazer gear. If I’m alive afterwards, I’ll try to post an eye-witness recap.