Game 5 Preview: Blazers vs. Bucks

More of this wouldn't hurt tonight.

Game Time:  5:00 Pacific   TV:  CSNW

The Bucks present an interesting challenge to the Blazers, different than the last couple of games.  Both New York and Chicago impale teams on a sharp, superstar spit then roast them over the rest of the lineup.  Milwaukee has point guard Brandon Jennings and center Andrew Bogut but they're not near the level of a Derrick Rose or Amare Stoudemire.  Instead the Bucks are like a slow cooker.  They brown you evenly from all sides at a simmer.  Consider:

  • Jennings is quick as a rumor.  He's a fine scorer though his overall shooting percentage hovers around 40% because he shoots inconsistently from distance and loves the three-pointer.  He draws fouls and can pass as well as convert off of penetration.  He's averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 9 assists.
  • Bogut averages 12 and 11 plus 2.6 blocks per game.  He can score from mid-range and in, face-up, posting, or off the rebound.  He's a good offensive rebounder.
  • Forward Carlos Delfino is on fire from three-point range, attempting almost 9 per game so far this season and hitting 46% of them.  He's a good defender despite being 6'6". 
  • Corey Maggette has become the Bucks' sixth man, averaging 16 points in 23 minutes.  He'd be scoring far more if he shot better than 38% from the field and 17% from the arc.  That said he's averaging 7 free throws per game and hitting them all.  Maggette needs no introduction to Blazer fans.  Suffice it to say he could be Luol Deng, Take 2.  40 points from Maggette would not be amusing.

After this the picture gets hazy, though.  The Bucks have some decent players.  John Salmons and Drew Gooden are a couple of "almost weres".  Neither one is having a good time so far this year though.  Both are under 40% from the field.  Salmons hits some threes.  Gooden gets some rebounds.  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a bruiser, defender, rebounder, and sometimes scorer for the Bucks at small forward.  Earl Boykins is a veteran, waterbug point guard reserve and Keyon Dooling is a gunner at shooting guard but neither are seeing much of the floor.  If the Bucks were a sausage they'd be made from  33% prime grade, a few cuts past their due date, and a bunch of filler.  It tastes good enough with a beer and a bun but it's not haute cuisine.

Back to the slow-cooker analogy, Milwaukee wins by playing solid, consistent basketball.  If they move the ball, get back on defense, rebound as a team, and don't get too three-happy they can be tough.  You don't know from which direction they'll hurt you.  On their bad nights (which have included 2 of their 3 games this season) they go iso with mediocre players, they bomb away regardless of the defense, they can't rebound, and they abandon each other defensively.   They suffer from a lot of "oneness".  They have one guy who can pass.  They have one guy who can pressure and force turnovers.  They have one guy with the bulk and skill to drive and create contact.  They have one guy with a legit post game.  They have one guy who can shoot deep.  When you put these skills together you get a version of versatility but only if everyone is engaged and things are going right team-wide.  Otherwise you see the opponent get in the face of the shooter, sag back on the driver, get in the dribble of the driver, and so on.  The more they try to force it the less successful each individual becomes and the farther the team sinks.  Having multiple options doesn't work as well when there's only one option at a time depending on who has the ball.

As always the Blazers will want to rebound tonight.  It's no accident that their two toughest games have come against teams having good rebounding outings.  The Bucks' main players can rebound but Portland should be able to match them, if not outwork them.

The Blazers need to remember that this team will happily shoot deep with the slightest provocation.  They have one player who can hit:  Delfino.  Keep up on him but allow everyone else, including Jennings, to fire away.  Brandon Jennings at the arc is far less dangerous than Brandon Jennings on the drive.  Sag off and make him prove he can lead his team from there.

Milwaukee sports a ton of guys who aren't shooting well.  Avoid giving them dummy shots.  If you make them work they'll probably miss.  Get back in transition, use the zone if necessary to shut off the lane.

Take your pick who to run it at when on offense.  You could argue Portland has a mismatch at nearly every position.  This is not to say the Blazers are superior at every position, but every Portland player has some kind of advantage on his defender.  You can't go wrong except by making it easy for the Bucks to defend by pounding the floor, holding the ball, and telegraphing that the shot's going up from the exact person and exact position where the ball currently resides.  Let the Bucks set up and they're as good as anyone else defensively.  Plus they can rebound your misses.  Move the ball around, force them to move laterally, make them make decisions and help each other.  Even a little bit of that should free up shots.

In short, this is neither a revolutionary game nor a revolutionary opponent.  The Blazers need to bring out the good aspects of their play this year and avoid the bad.  If they can manage that, this should be a "W", a very nice 4-1 record, and a great 3 out of 4 on the road to start the season.  If we see another Chicago-style deep, dish-less offensive attack, though, the Blazers will be staring down the barrel of their second straight loss.  Even more so if they're foolish enough to give the Bucks the lane.

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.

Brew Hoop has got to be one of the best-named blogs out there.  Pay them a visit and say hello if you wish.  Maybe ask them if they'd prefer Bogut or Oden.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

P.S.  I know it's a L*kers blog but Land O' Lakers has some great stuff from Luke Walton on his namesake, Maurice Lucas.  Read it here.

P.P.S.  All of my fellow Generals alums should head over to the Friends of Grant page or look them up on Facebook (link fixed).  They are trying to resurface the athletic field at good old Grant High, a challenge in these budgetary times.  Every little bit helps.  

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