Fresh off a dignity-restoring home win over the Wizards, the Bucks head to Cleveland looking to avenge their buzzer-beating loss to Mo Williams and the Cavs on November 24. Both teams continue to struggle with injuries to key players, as Mo (hip, out for a couple weeks) and Anderson Varejao are out for the Cavs, who have now lost 14 straight and an incredible 24 of their last 25 games. I guess it could be worse, eh Bucks fans? Though John Salmons (hip, missed last game) and Andrew Bogut (viral infection) have been noticeably slowed of late, the Bucks got some great news on Thursday when it was revealed that Carlos Delfino (concussion) could be activated on Friday for the first time since early November.
Hello, Cleveland? Most people thought the Cavs would take a major hit following the departure of LeBron James, but I'm not sure anyone saw them being quite this bad. Injuries and the league's worst offense--even worse than the Bucks somehow--have been the major ingredients in the Cavs' 1-24 skid, which has been all the more surprising given their rather respectable 7-9 start. While both teams have been nothing short of abysmal offensively, the Bucks have at least defended well (4th in DRtg) all season, keeping them in the playoff hunt despite a tough schedule, a slew of injuries, and far too many nights where they came out looking flat and uninspired. In contrast, the Cavs have been equally terrible on both ends of the floor, ranking 29th in DRtg while allowing a league-high 53.7% eFG.
JS: Delfino practices, may play in Cleveland
Could Carlitos actually make an impact on the court in Cleveland? After a few months on the sidelines--some of it in very dark rooms, and almost all of it away from a basketball--the safe answer is probably not. But just getting back in uniform will be a big step for everyone's favorite Argentine, and I'd expect it to be a lift for the team as well.
"I'm pretty optimistic that tomorrow I can be at least on the bench," Delfino said. "I don't know if I'm going to play, but at least it will be a really good feeling to put the uniform back on and to try to help.
"For me, every single minute I get to play from now to the end of the season is going to be something for me. For a couple moments, I was thinking I wasn't going to be able to play.
I'll probably hold my breath every time he hits the deck from here on out, but at this point there's nothing you can do but put him on the court and hope he gets his legs back.
JS: Virus slows Bogut
On the bad news front--there always has to be some, right?--Bogut has now been struggling for a month with the same virus, which prompted a fresh round of tests on Thursday (we'll keep you posted if we learn anything).
"I've been struggling with something for three weeks now and it still hasn't gone away," he said. "It's frustrating and I've been trying to push through it and trying to play through it. But it's really hit me this last two or three games. We kind of don't know what it is, which is really the most scary thing about it."
Bogut's lack of energy has been most noticeable on offense, as his month-long slump has turned him into one of the least effective scorers on the league's second-worst offensive team. Pretty sobering stuff. In January he's shooting just 41.9% from the field and 30.8% from the line while averaging a paltry 10.4 ppg, and with Jennings out it couldn't come at a worse time. However, even this month he's managed 2.50 blocks per game, keeping him safely in the league's shot-blocking lead (2.75). Also of note is how Bogut blocks shots--among the league's top ten shot-swatters, Bogut has the best rate of his own team recovering the ball (67%).
Jennings pulls out of dunk context. In what I would describe as both good news and very rational decision-making, Jennings has indeed pulled the plug on his dunk contest appearance, yielding his spot to good buddy (and the more dunk contest-worthy) DeMar DeRozan. The Bucks have been in no hurry to rush their young cornerstone back prematurely, so you can imagine there was a collective sigh of relief when the decision was made to pass on a fun but completely unnecessary spectacle like the dunk contest. Jennings tells the JS he's still hoping to play in the rookie/sophomores game on February 18th, but that could also go by the wayside given that he's still at least a week or two away from returning to the court. While the rookie challenge is usually little more than a pickup game and Jennings should be playing in real games well before all-star weekend, I'd be perfectly content if he just took it easy that weekend.
Remembering Ramon. With Mo out, our other old friend Ramon Sessions will get top billing at point guard, and he's quietly putting together a pretty productive campaign. The raw numbers are nothing to get too excited about (10.8 ppg, 4.4 apg, 44.5% fg), but his per-40 minute rates (18.5 ppg/4.9 rpg/7.6 apg) and efficiency numbers (17.56 PER) are virtually identical to those he put up in his second and final season in Milwaukee.
SBN: Bucks among NBA leaders in home-court advantage
The Bucks have been anything but special at home so far this season (9-9), but since 2008 they've had among the league's biggest home-road differentials. Jon Bois from SBN crunched the numbers and reports that they would have won 13% more games had they played all their games at home, the sixth-highest differential in the NBA. Then again, that might speak more to the Bucks' bad play on the road than their particularly good play at the Bradley Center, where crowds have been fairly meek overall for the past three years.