Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE
Two weeks after edging the Hornets in a high-scoring affair in Milwaukee, the Bucks head to New Orleans looking to sweep the season series.
Hornets update. When the Bucks and Hornets met on November 17, New Orleans had just been blown out by the Thunder. This weekend? The Hornets were blown out by the Thunder. However, this time they were missing first overall pick Anthony Davis (stress reaction in ankle), whom you may recall stealing the show in Milwaukee with a career-high 28 points on just 14 shots. New Orleans has won just once in ten games since November 9, a rather unlikely 105-98 upset over the Clippers in Los Angeles a week ago, and Davis is still at least another week away from returning to action.
Most Improved. 2012 Most Improved Player winner Ryan Anderson found a new team over the summer, became a sixth man and has since worked his way back into the starting lineup because of Davis' injury, all while putting up slightly better numbers in most categories. Meanwhile, runner-up Ersan Ilyasova stayed with his old team, kept his starting job and has since lost it, all while putting up woefully inadequate numbers relative to prior seasons. On the plus side: Ilyasova actually had two good games last week, the first time we've been able to say that this season. Of course, Ersan's strong efforts against the Bulls and Celtics were sandwiched around a DNP-CD in Minnesota and a short night against the Knicks, so we're hardly out of the woods.
The Larry Sanders Show. Is Larry Sanders back on track? After sparkling in the Bucks' opening five games of the season, Sanders spent a few weeks battling some old nemeses--inconsistent finishing, questionable shot selection and, of course, foul trouble--before breaking out over the weekend with the two best games of his career to date. Friday saw Sanders register a 10-block triple-double in MInnesota, followed by another five blocks and career-highs of 18 points and 16 rebounds in 33 minutes against the Celtics on Saturday.
As always, a big part of Sanders' success comes from simply staying on the court: his 32 minutes on Friday and 33 on Saturday were his highest totals since playing a career-high 34 minutes against the Nuggets on December 1, 2010--when he semi-famously blocked eight shots along with 14 points and 10 rebounds in Denver. After picking up at least four fouls in 10 of the Bucks' first 11 games (he had three in the other), Sanders had just two fouls in both games over the weekend. He also had a combined four in the prior two games, though he played only 26 combined minutes against the Knicks and Bulls. It's not rocket science: when Sanders simply moves his feet and stays vertical he doesn't commit nearly as many fouls, and he's still damn hard to shoot over.
Bucks' rotation. Is it really worth trying to sort through this? I know Ellis and Jennings will play, and other than that your guess is as good as mine. To recap:
1) Tobias Harris started every game until the last one, when he didn't even play. Which was weird, because the guy who plays most of the minutes at SF (Mike Dunleavy) was also out. Wait, so who played all of those small forward minutes? The randomly-used Marquis Daniels and the now-healthy Luc Mbah a Moute.
2) Ilyasova started (and stunk) for the first weeks of the season, then deservedly went to the bench...and was great in his first game. And then he basically got forgotten about for two games, and then got remembered and played really well on Saturday. So on the one hand he deserves to play because he's coming around, and on the other hand he's still been awful for 90% of the season and hasn't really earned the benefit of anyone's doubt.
3) Beno Udrih (ankle) is out another week or two, so Doron Lamb presumably has to play.
4) John Henson has been solid but inconsistent in that rookie-getting-his-bearings kind of way, and you can assume his minutes will probably fluctuate accordingly. That said, we should probably all be thankful that Skiles is trusting the Tube Men at the expense of Drew Gooden, Sam Dalembert and (on most nights) Ilyasova.
5) Sam Dalembert has started most of the season despite not playing starters minutes, but he DNP-CD'ed on Saturday as part of the shakeup that put Udoh in the starting lineup. Will he play tonight? Who knows.