A Look at the Bucks
The Bucks are another of the seemingly-endless victims of the injury bug this year in the NBA. Star guard and Olympian Michael Redd has been out since January. Center Andrew Bogut is in street clothes as well. That leaves a ton of pressure on small forward Richard Jefferson. Some nights he's on (35 against Golden State and 27 against New Orleans in the last couple of weeks) and some not so much (13 against Orlando in their last game). Ramon Sessions has taken over the starting point guard position. He's good for several assists a night but his scoring runs hot or frigid. Charlie Villanueva also starts and he's discovered quite the scoring touch lately, averaging 18.4 in his last five games.
Rounding out the starting five are Francisco Elson and the uniform seamstress' nightmare, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. LRMM is a converted small forward pressed into shooting guard duty and it's not working that well. Elson is a journeyman rebounder.
And then it gets ugly.
Luke Ridnour, Keith Bogans, Malik Allen, and Dan Gadzuric all have experience off the bench but none of those names make you twirl in joy. Rookie Joe Alexander can't even get off the bench. You can really see here that the guts have been ripped out of this team with the injuries to their key guys.
Despite that, the Bucks are 31-39 and are still managing to win about 1 game in every 3. They remain a pretty good defensive rebounding team and they've got a few shooters. Most of all they like to gamble and force turnovers. They average 6 more field goal attempts than their opponents. That's not just a function of speed but of the turnover and rebounding combination. This is the main way they compensate for the lack of offensive firepower right now. They're 9th in the league in free throws attempted and 6th in free throws made while sitting atop the league in both free throws attempted and made by opponents. It's easy to overlook this team but they are not completely lousy. They're a middle of the road squad made poorer by their excused absences.
One of the last important things to remember about Bucks is that they resemble another Wisconsin mascot: the badger. They may be small and a little funny looking and overall you should be able to handle them BUT if you corner one in its hole it's going to scrape and fight and bite down to its last breath. This team doesn't give up. Don't think you have the game won before that final horn sounds.
Keys to the Game
1. The last time the Blazers played the Bucks we gave them a big, whopping dose of Greg Oden...like 24 points and 15 rebounds worth. This is the first place to attack again. Get inside, bang around, get shots at the rim against their big men...not just from Oden in the post but from drivers too. Brandon Roy, for instance, should probably drive far more in this game than he has in the last couple. The middle is the weak spot in the dam. Burst it open.
2. Milwaukee does not defend the outside shot well, especially if they have to help inside. This is the night for all the three-point shooters to come to the fore.
3. The Blazers need to limit the Bucks' take-aways and running opportunities. Portland almost never turns the ball over a ton anyway. That will serve them well tonight. Milwaukee's pretty much been in the 80's or 100's lately. We want the lower category. Making them work for their points is the key.
4. As always...rebound.
5. This is the end of the tunnel for the last big road trip of the year but the trip isn't over until you've won this game. Come out with energy and finish with energy. Don't assume the win.
A 3-2 trip was pretty much what we expected if things went well. That's what we'll have if we win this game. You'll have to tip your hat to the Blazers if that happens.
Check out the Bucks' side of things at BrewHoop.
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