A new enforcer in the middle.
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|37-39 (22-16 home)
||42-34 (15-23 road)
|April 6, 2010|
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
|(26th) 103.4 - OFFENSE - 104.6 (23rd)
|(11th) 105.5 - DEFENSE - 102.9 (3rd)
|(11th) 93.2 - PACE - 92.0 (19th)|
Each of the first three head-to-head matchups have been extra-close. The Bucks blew a big lead way back in early November and lost 83-81 in Chicago, Andrew Bogut returned from injury (cruel reference) to carry Milwaukee to a 99-97 home win in late November, and the last time these two met Bogut and Michael Redd led the Bucks to a 96-93 win at the BC almost three months ago. So things have changed a bit since then.
The Bulls have won a couple in a row and appear to have left their worst basketball behind them, in early-March. They are coming off a 96-88 home win over the Bobcats on Saturday in which all five starters hit double figures and the backcourt tandem of Derrick Rose (26 points) and Kirk Hinrich (24 points?) scored big and the frontcourt starters, Joakim Noah (16 rebounds) and Taj Gibson (15 rebounds) owned the glass. That last bit is a little scary considering Bogut's absence...
Lining up without Bogut.
Bogut absolutely dominated the Bulls in three matchups, averaging 21.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 4.3 blocks as Milwaukee won two of three. This is so frustrating. It is what it is though.
The Bucks are 2-5 without Bogut to date, with five straight losses. In the first game of the season without the Aussie, Brandon Jennings torched the Bobcats for 29/7 in a 95-88 win. The very next night, Nov. 21, Jennings didn't make a first half field goal but finished with 26 points in a 103-98 win over Memphis. And that was the last time the Bucks won a game without 'Drew.
In their only game without Bogut since the acquisitions of Salmons and Stackhouse, the Bucks were crushed 87-74 by the Heat. Of course, that was the game in which Carlos Delfino was stepped on by Udonis Haslem, and the Bucks were missing Ersan Ilyasova along with Bogut.
At the rim.
So how will the Bucks find easy baskets now? They rank dead last in the NBA in field goals made per game at the rim, with 13.8. And that was with Bogut ranking among the leaders with 3.7 makes at the rim per game. John Salmons is next with 2.4 and then it's all the way down to 1.7 per game for Mbah a Moute. You have to figure the Bucks are going to rely on three point shooting now more than ever, as they are the next most efficient type of shots after the ones coming directly at the rim. Only without Bogut, it will be more difficult than ever to get open looks from outside.
A win tonight clinches a playoff spot for the Bucks, whose magic number is two. Simple as that. Simple, but not easy: Milwaukee has dropped eight straight games in the Windy City.
The Bucks are still only half a game behind Miami for the five seed, but they only lead seventh-place Charlotte by two games. And a seventh place finish would be rather disastrous since that would produce a first-round matchup with Orlando. Dwight Howard going against a Bogut-less frontline is terrifying enough, but Vince Carter is doing 360s, Rashard Lewis (11-18 on threes this month) is heating up at the right time, and Milwaukee lost all three games against Orlando this year.
So this game is big. Because after tonight the Bucks host the Nets, who are actually playing respectably lately, having won four out of seven. And then it's @Philly, vs Boston, vs Atlanta, and @Boston. The Sixers match up very well with the Bucks, and the Celtics and Hawks, while preferred opponents to the Magic and Cavs, are awfully tough.
Joe Alexander's career hasn't exactly taken off since being traded to the Bulls. He is shooting 1-6 with nine fouls in eight games (29 minutes) with Chicago.