Bucks vs. Nets Preview: Milwaukee Hoping Win In New Jersey Can Help Them Catch New York

2011/2012 NBA Season

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vs.

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17-24 (7-15 away) 14-28 (4-14 home)
March 12, 2012
Prudential Center
6:30 PM CT
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Brandon Jennings PG Jordan Farmar
Carlos Delfino SG MarShon Brooks
Tobias Harris SF Deshawn Stevenson
Ersan Ilyasova PF Kris Humphries
Drew Gooden C Shelden Williams

(17th) 103.7 - OFFENSE - 103.8 (15th)
(21st) 106.2 - DEFENSE - 111.0 (30th)
(7th) 92.5 - PACE - 89.2 (28th)

On the Nets: NetsDaily / Nets Are Scorching / NJ.com

Surprise, surprise! Trade rumors, injuries and mediocre play be damned, the Bucks are once again just a game out of the East's final playoff spot and will have a chance to tie the Knicks for the 8th seed if they can beat the Nets and the Knicks lose to Chicago. The Bucks have won nine straight against the Nets dating back to February 3, 2009, and New Jersey could be seriously shorthanded with Brook Lopez out and Deron Williams (calf) also a game-time decision.

Bogut trade rumors. The Golden State Warriors are the latest team reported to be interested in the Bucks' 27-year-old star, though word is that the Bucks would require either Stephen Jackson (natch) or Drew Gooden to be shipped out along with him. Trading Bogut now would be an interesting move in part because it doesn't seem like the Bucks should be in a rush to deal him--even if he's not happy in Milwaukee, he still has two years remaining on his deal after this one and his ankle injury means he might not be of use to any team acquiring him this spring.

But Bogut's uncertain return also means the Bucks could reconcile a trade of their best player with continuing their run at the East's last playoff spot. And let's be honest, none of us expect the Bucks to throw in the towel now that they're once again just a stone's throw from the magical eight seed (feel free to read as much or as little sarcasm into that as you please). Bogut's injury plays an important factor because even if he were shipped out for picks and/or young players who aren't close to him in terms of current ability, neither he nor Stephen Jackson is contributing anything now anyway. That might change if Bogut gets good news from his next check-up in a couple weeks' time, but we won't know for sure until after the trade deadline. My guess (and hope) is that the Bucks put a high price on Bogut now and force a team to wow them with an offer--otherwise hang on to him and see what you might be able to get for him around draft time.

Ersanity reigns. Ersan Ilyasova was playing damn good basketball even before his incredible 29-point, 25-rebound performance in New Jersey on February 19, but he's taken his game to an even higher level since his career night against the Nets. Ilyasova has registered double-doubles in nine of his last 15 games and scored 25+ points five times in that span, including in the last three straight. Not bad for a guy who had never scored more than 25 in a game coming into the season and averaged just 8.1 ppg on 40.9% shooting in January.

Ilyasova has shot 50% or better from the field in eight of his last nine games, boosting his shooting splits to career highs across the board: .475 overall, .426 from three, and 55.6% in true shooting terms. His shot distribution also helps: though his at-rim fg% is down slightly (57.8% vs. 58.4% last year), he's taking more shots around the hoop (3.6/g vs. 2.3/g last year) and fewer long twos as well. His finishing and offensive rebounding numbers might also be a bit skewed by the number of tips and putbacks of his own misses he gets, which would tend to inflate the latter and depress the former.

That the Bucks are possibly requiring teams interested in Bogut to take on Gooden's salary would also suggest they want to make a run at retaining Ilyasova this summer, though his sparkling play of late means they'd likely have to offer him a Gooden-like deal just to be in the conversation. I have my doubts about whether Ilyasova can maintain his current career-best productivity over the course of a fat new contract, but his relative youth would make him a better gamble than Gooden was two summers ago.

Deron in doubt. Deron Williams left Friday's game against the Bobcats with a strained calf and did not play Saturday in the Nets 112-106 loss to the Rockets. Williams shredded the Bobcats for 57 points just a week ago, so something tells me the Bucks will be OK if Jordan Farmar has to start in his place.

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