A day after his 37 points sparked the Bucks to a very necessary win in New York, Brandon Jennings hopes to reprise his starring role against MVP candidate Derrick Rose and the Bulls.
Brandon going off. Jennings' season-high 37 last night is the most he's scored since...wait, has he ever scored more than that in the NBA? Gee, I can't remember.
Scott Skiles says he will "most likely" suit up tomorrow night against the Chicago Bulls at home. "We’re not sure how much he’s going to play yet. That will probably depend on the game." Skiles said. "He looks good, though. He’s in good shape. He’s been playing 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 after a long rehab."
It's difficult to imagine Redd being ready to make a real impact on the court, but giving him a couple minutes should at least offer an emotional boost in front of what could be a mixed crowd.
Short bench. Drew Gooden was active but DNP-CD'ed last night in New York, so it will be interesting to see if and how Skiles works his opening night starter back into the rotation, especially with Larry Sanders playing well over the past week. Skiles has said a number of times lately that he's trying to go with a shorter rotation, usually in reference to why Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts have been relegated to peripheral members of the team, but the Bucks are seriously short on big men given Ersan Ilyasova's continued absence and the Bucks' decision to set Earl Barron loose after a couple of 10-day contracts.
"He can not have a great game on a given night and still close the game out and win the game with big plays," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "That’s what the great players do.
"And he can have a great night as well. He’s got the size, the speed and the power at that position and he’s an excellent finisher. His defense is much better. His three-point shooting is greatly improved and you’ve got to respect him on the floor now. That’s why he’s markedly better.
"He was very, very good coming into the league. Now he’s continued to get better. It’s scary."
Bulls still winning with defense. The Bulls have cruised to a 14-3 record since the all-star break, overtaking the Celtics for tops in the East despite their star players' numbers dropping off a bit. Though his scoring has been around 25 ppg all season, Rose's other numbers have tailed off a bit since the all-star break: .398/.292 shooting and 6.5 apg vs. .450/.355 and 8.2 apg before. Carlos Boozer has also had his struggles since the all-star break, dealing with ankle issues and putting up an un-Boozer-like 13.6 ppg with 7.5 rpg on 44% shooting compared to 19.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 54% before.
But all that's OK when you have the league's best defense (99.8 pts/100). Chicago has the best eFG% allowed (.461) and are third in the league in forcing turnovers. And the Bulls play all that defense while still ranking in the league's top half offensively--take note, Bucks.
SLAM: Jennings Receives NBA Cares Award for February
Not to be lost in Jennings' on-court heroics are his equally impressive contributions off the court. The NBA this week recognized his help in refurbishing the Double Rock Learning Center in his hometown of Compton with the NBA Cares Award, given each month to players who do the most for their communities. Well done, Brandon.
SBNation.com: Derrick Rose No Better An NBA MVP Candidate than Russell Westbrook
Tom Ziller at SBN takes the contrarian angle, using the relative anonymity of Russell Westbrook (at least in MVP terms) to make his point.
All told, Rose likely has the slimmest of edges over Westbrook based on the fact he has played more minutes and, given the turnover comparison, a touch more efficient. But it's incredibly close, and if you're willing to strongly consider Rose for the award, you've also got to consider Westbrook. And if you consider Rose and Westbrook, you've got to consider superior producers LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki ... heck, Durant. Kevin Love is as productive as Rose. Why not him? Where would the Wolves be without Kevin Love? Worst team ever? Kobe Bryant. Zach Randolph. Pau Gasol. Amar'e Stoudemire. All of these players compare to Rose in terms of production; many of them compare favorably.
The formula for Rose's likely success is ironically similar to what propelled Brandon Jennings to plenty of rookie of the year hype a year ago: surprising (if not particularly efficient) raw numbers, a team that surpassed all expectations, and a certain aesthetic appeal to his game. To be clear, Rose is way ahead of Jennings and he also has the big market thing going for him, but I'd hazard that the type of fans who thought Jennings was the league's best rookie a year ago are probably squarely in Rose's MVP camp now (Bucks/Bulls hatred excluded).
If Rose does take home the MVP, he'll likely do it with the worst FG% (43.7%) of any MVP in the last 47 years save for Allen Iverson (42% in 2001).
Jennings in the clutch. He was terrific down the stretch last night, but Brandon Jennings has mostly struggled late in games this season: via 82games, he's managed just 23% eFG shooting in clutch situations. Woof. But hey, at least he's an 85% shooter from the line in those situations...