Reportedly missing throughout November and December, Charlie Bell is back! NBAE/Getty Images
Heat (8-27, 4-16 road, 15th East) @ Bucks (14-20, 9-5 home, 10th East)
Bucks Stats: Offense 20th (100.5 pts/100 poss), Defense 27th (106.6), Rebounding 13th (.506 rr), Pace 22nd (93.1)
Heat Stats: Offense 24th (99.2 pts/100 poss), Defense 24th (104.6), Rebounding 28th (.482 rr), Pace 16th (93.8)
Bucks Injuries: Michael Redd has missed three straight games due to a thigh bruise and is listed as day-to-day. Desmond Mason is out 6-8 weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb. David Noel has been out with a wrist injury. Jake Voskuhl has missed three straight games with a right hip strain and is listed as day-to-day.
Heat Injuries: Shaquille O'Neal has been out since Jan. 28 with hip problems. Smush Parker has been out since Nov. 27 for personal reasons. Dorell Wright has been out since Jan. 2 with an ankle injury. Alonzo Mourning is out after tearing the patella tendon in his right knee.
- When the Bucks beat the Heat exactly one week ago, they still had Michael Redd in the lineup. However, Redd was quiet and missed the entire fourth, scoring just eight points on 3-10 shooting along with three turnovers in 33 minutes. So, not only have the Bucks won two straight games without Redd, they won despite not much from him against the Heat either. To be fair to Redd, the supporting pieces only now have awakened. If Bell, Simmons, and Villanueva had performed like they have of late with Redd on the court, we'd surely all be realizing our preseason hopes of a playoff contending team in Milwaukee. And no, I'm not subscribing to the anti-Redd school of thought that claims these role players can only be successful with Redd out of the way. Their recent success might have a little to do with mentally knowing they need to step up, but it has a lot more to do with their physical form returning. If the supporting pieces play like they have over the last week when Redd returns, the Bucks might just emerge from January alive.
- The Heat are, well, cold. They come into Milwaukee having lost eight in a row, including last night's 101-91 loss to the Timberwolves. Worse yet, the NBA's worst team cruised to victory. In short, with the impending road trip, this is must-win for the Bucks. It's also a should-win for the Bucks, who are five-point favorites.
- Dwyane Wade is the star, but even he is unable to carry this hapless bunch to victories alone. Along with his lack of support, he's also been nicked up a bit this year, contributing to his lowest shooting percentages since his rookie year: 47.5 % from the field, 15.8 % from outside, and 74.2 % from the line. Not too shabby, but not enough either. You could replace Wade with anyone you'd like in the NBA, and the Heat still wouldn't contend. Remember the currently unbeatable Kevin Garnett last year? Wade is in a similarly unenviable position now. And as noted, he's hurting.
Now, Wade's playing with soreness from both the shoulder and knee, as well as a bruised right shoulder, an injured shin and a jammed finger.
- The Heat are still ailing all over, but they got a slight boost when Jason Williams returned on Jan. 6. I say only slight because he dished out one assist and didn't score in 14 minutes in his return. He scored three points on 1-5 shooting last night against the Timberwolves. Williams has been the subject of trade rumors, as the Heat's season is obviously unsalvagable. Further, Chris Quinn, despite his low ceiling, continues to start at point guard. We're not sure if the Bucks are going to get blown up, but it's pretty obvious the Heat aren't getting two titles out of this core, and they already got one.
- Charlie Bell has made zero or one field goal 20 times this season out of 34 games. That helps explain how it's possible that he scored 30.3 % of his points this season in the last two games, roughly 5.8 % of his games played. Thankfully, by all indications, he's turned the corner. Not only has Bell had his two best offensive games of the year in a row, he pulled down ten rebounds combined in those back-to-back games, a feat he had only accomplished once before, on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2 against the Heat. Bell's five total three pointers made are also his most in back-to-back games this year, as are his five free throws made. The points, rebounds, three pointers, and free throws are all at least partial results of Bell's newfound aggressiveness and confidence.
"I'm finally feeling comfortable with my shot," Bell said. "I'm getting my confidence back and starting to come around."
- Daequan Cook, the least heralded of the Ohio St. first round rookie triumvirate, is also the most productive so far. Cook is benefiting from the Heat's injury-plagued season, averaging 28.3 minutes in the past six games. Cook showed off a strong mid-range game in college, and has turned into a formidable long-range threat already in the NBA. He's attempted a whopping 29 three-pointers the last six games, making 37.0 % of them in that span.
- Yi Jianlian needs to party, or maybe just play like it's 2007. In 2008, he's averaging 6.3 points on 30.3 % shooting from the field. Hopefully we don't have to wait until Feb. 7, the Chinese New Year, for Yi to break out. Tonight could be his night, because Yi plays better at home, where he's averaging 12.7 points on 48.9 % shooting, along with 7.3 rebounds. Who ever said he wasn't a good fit in Milwaukee?
- The decline of the Heat, with a little help from the calendar: two years ago they lost their 27th game of the season on April 9. Last year it was Feb. 21. This year they only waited until yesterday, Jan. 8, to lose their 27th game.
- The Heat are the worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA, at 69.6 %. The last two teams the Bucks defeated, the Sixers and Bobcats, are ranked 27th and 29th respectively in free-throw shooting.
- Check out Ira Winderman's blog for more on the Heat.