Game Time: 5:30 p.m. Pacific TV: CSNNW
At a mediocre-looking 26-28 at the time of this writing (likely 27-28 after playing the abysmal Charlotte Bobcats Friday night) the Milwaukee Bucks should come with an asterisk. They got off to a 14-23 start to the season but since, due in no small part to the trade-deadline addition of Monta Ellis, the Bucks have gone 12-5. True, the "W's" have come against shaky teams but they have a couple nice wins in there: Philadelphia, Atlanta, and the Trail Blazers back on March 20th. Almost all of their wins have been typified by offense coming out the wazoo. 105 is their low-water mark in victories and they range up to 115 and even 120 with alarming frequency. This team is scoring all day, all night, all the time.
Ellis is the chief culprit in the bonanza, cranking out 20.5 per game for the Bucks. He's also opened the floor for Brandon Jennings, who scored 24+ on 7 occasions in March having done it only 7 times prior all season. Forwards Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova have also jumped on the scoring bandwagon. The forward parade continues--though less prolifically--with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh, and Mike Dunleavy with Beno Udrih coming in as a reserve guard. It's not inaccurate to say the Bucks play Jennings, Ellis, and an all-you-can-eat buffet of forwards. Blazer fans will notice the similarities between that approach and Portland's own, though Portland plays more guards.
Milwaukee's plan is simple. Their defense is lackluster. They need to score enough points to make up for it. They'll pressure your defense with the guards. If you single-cover they'll score. If you send help they'll find an open forward, all of whom can hit shots, many of whom can hit from deep as well. If their shots miss, so be it. They're good offensive rebounders anyway. In the end they're going to make enough shots to overwhelm you. You'll feel like you played a pretty good game, made them miss a bunch of shots, but then you look up at the scoreboard and realize they shot 50% and beat you by 10.
In order to win tonight the Blazers will have to find a way to defend the guards while still rotating back to shooters. Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton are going to be under a ton of pressure to watch their men. Portland does have rangy defenders all over the frontcourt, though. If Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge can cover enough ground to get hands in the faces of jump-shooters Milwaukee will get flustered. Aldridge will have to exert himself on offense. He's the only Blazer guaranteed to be able to increase the leak in Milwaukee's already-porous defense. If the Blazers get guard-happy, as they sometimes do, Milwaukee's backcourt will trump them. If they work off of the pressure Aldridge creates they will have played Milwaukee's own game against them, just going forward-to-guard instead of guard-to-forward as the Bucks do. Guarding against Milwaukee's offensive rebounding will also be a key.
The Bucks clobbered the Blazers in that earlier meeting but Portland has had more time to get their sea legs under them since. This will be a difficult game but not an impossible one. Let's see if Portland has the energy and gumption to play the way they need to.
BrewHoop is your Milwaukee connection.
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