Bucks vs. Blazers Preview: Surging Bucks Look For Sixth Straight Win In Portland

2011/2012 NBA Season

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vs.
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20-24 (9-15 road)
21-24 (14-7 home)
March 20, 2012
Rose Garden
9:00 PM
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Brandon Jennings
PG Raymond Felton
Monta Ellis
SG Wesley Matthews
Carlos Delfino SF Nicolas Batum
Ersan Ilyasova
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
Drew Gooden
C Joel Przybilla

(11th) 105.0 - OFFENSE - 105.2 (9th)
(23rd) 106.2 - DEFENSE - 103.3 (13th)
(7th) 92.6 - PACE - 91.5 (17th)

On the Blazers:

Blazers Edge / Portland Roundball Society / Oregon Live

After three days off, the Bucks put their season-high five-game win streak on the line in Portland against the suddenly rebuilding Blazers, who despite a better record than the Bucks are just a week removed from firing long-time coach Nate McMillan and selling off key assets Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby at the deadline.

Times they are a-changin'. The last time the Bucks were in Portland they featured a starting five of Keyon Dooling, John Salmons, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ersan Ilyasova and Andrew Bogut. It was the first game after Brandon Jennings broke his foot in December 2010, And it did not go well, to the tune of a listless 106-80 loss. However, the team bounced back in shockingly strong fashion the next night in L.A. with an Earl Boykins-inspired 98-79 win over the Lakers. Ah, memories.

Much has of course changed for the Bucks since then, most notably the big trade last week which sent Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to Golden State in exchange for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown's expiring contract. After scoring a season-high 120 against the Warriors on Friday night, the Bucks have climbed all the way up to 11th in the league in offensive efficiency--seriously unknown territory for a team that ranked dead last in the NBA last season. It's also a strange position for Scott Skiles, who has never coached a team to a top twenty finish in offensive efficiency (progress!), but is also guaranteed to finish outside the league's top half in defensive efficiency for the first time (oh...).

A big part of the reversal on both ends has to do with the boards: after finishing 7th in defensive rebound rate and 22nd in offensive rebound rate last year, the Bucks are just 28th in defensive rebounding and 9th in offensive rebounding this year. Pace is also part of the story offensively: the Bucks have moved from dead last to 15th in fast break points per game, though they're still being outscored by opponents in that category (13.8-12.8).

Goodensanity. The NBA's latest player of the week averaged 18.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg and 8.0 apg last week in leading his team to three wins, and his name is...Drew Gooden? A week after Ersan Ilyasova (Eastern Conference) and Monta Ellis (Western Conference) took home player of the week nods, Gooden made it three current Bucks in the last two weeks to claim the honor.

In and out. While no one expected them to be title contenders, the Blazers were hardly expected to be tankers when the season began, especially after a 7-3 start in December and January. And yet here they are, clinging to a still-respectable 21-24 record which understates statistically how well the Blazers have actually played--in terms of expected record based on scoring differential, the Blazers should be closer to 25-20. Yet the numbers don't show the team's chaotic decline, which reportedly saw guards Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford at odds with McMillan while other parts of the locker room seemed to lose interest in less confrontational fashion.

With all that as a backdrop, the Blazers' brass quickly opted to gut the team and focus on a quick rebuild, a somewhat laudable approach if not for Paul Allen and company's usual ham-fisted style of getting it done. Gone are one-time building blocks Brandon Roy (released before the season due to his degenerative knee) and Greg Oden (released last week due to his degenerative...well, body), leaving all-star big man LaMarcus Aldridge and athletic wingman Nic Batum as the only obvious core pieces. The good news for Blazer fans is that shipping Gerald Wallace to New Jersey netted Portland a top three-protected lottery pick in June, which along with Portland's own lottery pick should give them a serious injection of new blood next season. One-time lottery picks Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet could also fit in somewhere (who knows!), and plenty of cap space this summer means Portland could turn things around fairly quickly.

Canales' crew. Rookie head coach Kaleb Canales was left to pick up the pieces following McMillan's exit and kicked off his coaching career with a 100-89 win over the Derrick Rose-less Bulls in Chicago last week before crashing back down to earth in a 111-95 loss in Oklahoma City on Sunday.

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