Bucks (17-26, 5-19 road, 11th East) @ Raptors (23-19, 12-8 home, 6th East)
Bucks Stats: Offense 19th (101.5 pts/100 poss), Defense 27th (107.5), Rebounding 13th (.504 rr), Pace 20th (93.2)
Raptors Stats: Offense 11th (105.9 pts/100 poss), Defense 14th (103.2), Rebounding 23rd (.490 rr), Pace 27th (91.8)
Bucks Injuries: Mo Williams (pinkie) returned to the lineup last night after missing a game. Desmond Mason is out another week or so with a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Raptors Injuries: TJ Ford has been out since suffering another neck stinger on December 11. There's been talk of him returning at some point this season but no word yet on a target date. Get well, TJ.
07/08 Series: The Bucks trounced the Raps 112-85 on November 6 at the BC. Desmond Mason went 10/10 from the field for 21 points and Chris Bosh scored just one point in 15 minutes.
- The Bucks are coming off a 104-92 win last night at home against the Pacers, which marked just the third time all season they've won by double-digits. Of course, the Pacers were playing their fourth game in five nights and were without the services of Tinsley and O'Neal. The Bucks' biggest win of the year? The 112-85 thumping they put on the Raptors in Milwaukee in November. The Bucks have struggled for much of the year to keep up with running teams, but against Phoenix and Indiana they've shown a better ability to keep up. The Bucks should probably push the tempo more regularly now, as the plan of hoping a halfcourt style would lead to better defense simply hasn't worked out.
- Redd got plenty of shots last night (13/29 fg) in a more up-tempo game, especially in the first half when Andrew Bogut was forced to miss time with foul trouble. It's no secret that the Bucks have re-oriented their offense more around Bogut, who has responded with his best month as a pro: 18.1 ppg and 10.3 rpg on 58% shooting. So is Redd now happily deferring to the young big man? Tough to say.
- The Raps edged the East-leading Celtics 114-112 in Boston on Wednesday. Four Raptors scored 20+ points: Calderon (24 and 13 assists), Chris Bosh (23), Anthony Parker (20), and Andrea Bargnani (20). The Raptors shot 58% from the field against the best defensive team in basketball, including an obscene 15/21 from distance. They also made all 19 of their free throws to help overcome 18 turnovers. The Raps outscored the C's 30-21 in the fourth quarter, with Calderon's three with 10.5 seconds left providing the go-ahead points.
- Perhaps most encouraging to Raptors fans was the play of Bargnani, who added seven rebounds and seven assists in addition to his 20 points. Bargnani had gone eight consecutive games without scoring more than seven and has generally had a massively disappointing sophomore season. In 23 mpg, Bargnani is averaging 9.0 ppg and 3.4 rpg on just .381 shooting from the field. Already one of the worst rebounding big men last year, his rebounding rate has dropped to a microscopic 8.9 this year. He has loads of offensive talent, but with Bosh at PF the Raptors have had a hard time finding a way to put Bargnani in a position to succeed. The Basketball Jones had a feature on Bargnani's struggles recently, while David Thorpe at ESPN doesn't sound too impressed:
The top pick in the draft has to be the most disappointing player, thus far, from the draft class of 2006. He has been less effective in almost every measurable category this season compared to his rookie season, which is a very troubling sign. He's still a very good 3-point shooter, but he's showing little else. With the No. 1 pick, the Raptors may have drafted a Matt Bonner type.
- The Raps have plenty of shooters, but they're not a typical run-and-gun team: they're near the bottom of the league in pace and their defensive efficiency rank (14) is pretty close to their offensive efficiency rank (11th). They rank 8th in three pointers made per game (7.5), but that's somewhat deceptive since many of the teams ahead of them play at a faster pace. They do lead the league in three point accuracy, converting at an impressive 42% as a team. To put that in perspective, the Bucks don't have a single player converting at even 40% from distance, while the Raps have six. Yeah, these guys can shoot, and the Bucks can only hope they have cooled off since Wednesday.
- Jose Calderon was perhaps the most improved player in the league last season, and he's proving this year that it was no fluke. Forced into a major role in TJ Ford's absence, Calderon is scoring 12.1 ppg along with 8.5 apg on .514/.435/.919 shooting. Perhaps most impressively, he turns the ball over less than twice a game, good for a ridiculous 5.44 assist/to ratio. No one else is even close. This month he's averaging 15 ppg and 10 apg. If life were fair he'd be an all-star reserve. The Bucks supposedly tried to sign Calderon years ago but he opted to stay in Europe another season.
- No shortage of subplots tonight. The #1 overall picks from 2005 (Bogut) and 2006 (Bargnani) will both start tonight, though Bargnani will no doubt be guarded by Yi Jianlian and vice versa. Yi has struggled this month but outplayed Bargnani in November, while Bosh will look to bounce back from a horrendous, foul-plagued one point outing in the first matchup. The game also features two of the league's top rookies in Yi and Jamario Moon. After starting slowly, Bosh has rounded into form and is having a great January, averaging 27.5 ppg and 9.2 rpg on 60% shooting. It's asking a lot, but the Bucks will likely need Bogut to win his matchup with Bosh if they are to have any chance of winning tonight.
- Check out our friends at Raptors HQ for more on Toronto. We did a Q&A with them on the Bucks, along with Brett from The Bratwurst.