Cavs vs. Bucks Preview: Milwaukee Homestand Begins Against Fading Cavs

2011/2012 NBA Season

Mil

vs.

Cle

25-28 (12-12 home) 17-34 (8-16 road)
April 4, 2012
Bradley Center
7:00 PM CT
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Brandon Jennings PG Donald Sloan
Monta Ellis SG Anthony Parker
Luc Mbah a Moute SF Alonzo Gee
Ersan Ilyasova PF Antawn Jamison
Ekpe Udoh C Tristan Thompson

(10th) 105.7 - OFFENSE - 101.2 (25th)
(18th) 105.4 - DEFENSE - 107.6 (25th)
(5th) 93.2 - PACE - 91.6 (12th)

On the Cavaliers: Fear the Sword / Cavs the Blog / Waiting For Next Year

These guys again? Five days after winning in Cleveland by an eye-popping 121-84 margin the Bucks go for a season sweep of the Cavs at the Bradley Center in the first game of a five-game homestand. Cleveland enters the game having lost eight in a row, including the last seven by at least a dozen each. In other words, don't call them unlucky. Their latest loss was a 125-90 drubbing at home to the Spurs on Tuesday night, meaning they've been outscored in their last two home games by a combined 72 points.

UPDATE: To make the Cavs even less competitive, Kyrie Irving is out at least a week for the Cavs. For the Bucks, Drew Gooden (back) and Carlos Delfino (groin) are out while Beno Udrih (finger) is back and Ekpe Udoh will start in Gooden's spot.

Opportunity knocks. The Bucks have been treading water in the playoff standings for a few weeks now, making a habit of pummeling bad teams (generally on the road, where they've gone 13-8 since an 0-8 start) while losing to good teams (typically at home, where they've gone 5-10 since starting the season 7-2). But with a five-game homestand starting on Wednesday, the time is now for taking care of business. Perhaps not surprisingly, Scott Skiles is most worried about complacency.

"We've got to make sure we take advantage of this spot on our schedule when we're at home, and not go home and kind of get lazy, laying around," coach Scott Skiles said.

New York blew a 17-point lead in Indiana on Saturday, bringing the Bucks to within 1.5 games of the last playoff spot in the East, with an all-important visit from the Knicks on tap for April 11. Between now and then the Bucks just have to hold serve at home against the Cavs, Bobcats and Blazers, each of whom they've beaten on the road by 20+ points over the past few weeks. Piece of cake, right?

Don't answer that...

In case you had any doubts (/lived under a rock), Bucks owner Herb Kohl does indeed think a return to the playoffs is a big deal for his franchise. Via Charles Gardner:

"It's important for the players, the coaches, myself, the business operation, and first and foremost for the fans," Sen. Kohl said of reaching the playoffs.

"It's a lot easier to sell your product when you have a winning season. If we get to the playoffs, I think we'll all feel that we've had a good season. Then we'll hope to do well in the playoffs.

"Yes, it's important."

You can call it short-sighted, but it's also the reality of doing business in a small market that has generally taken a show-me (to put it charitably) attitude toward its NBA team. Win some games and stay vaguely relevant, or lose a bunch and fall off the radar entirely. The natural counter-argument is that the Bucks' current path will never win them a title, but tanking is not a solution unto itself either. Was that diplomatic enough to keep everyone happy? Good.

The big Ekpe-off. Ekpe Udoh hasn't exactly been a scoring machine since moving to Milwaukee (39.2% field goals, 44.8% true shooting), but he's rebounded at a much-improved rate (14.9%) and maintained his much-talked-about plus/minus exploits (+7.1 pts/100 on the court, -1.1 off). Oh, and don't look now but even Monta Ellis has had a net positive plus/minus differential!

Brandon's March. Considering how much I bemoaned his brutal month of February, it's only fair that I point out what a solid March it was for the Bucks' starting point guard. It might not have seemed like it, but Jennings actually bettered his scoring and assist numbers from his much-hyped January: 20.5 ppg, 5.9 apg, 1.8 spg, 2.1 to on .434/.347/.781 shooting. A big start to the month masked some less consistent play later on, but Jennings has now played pretty well in four straight, suggesting that he might be able to play with Ellis after all.

Monta. Unfortunately it's not clear if the reverse is true: Ellis has shot just .388/.222/.744 since the trade that brought him to Milwaukee, with his shooting splits down from all areas of the court. His 58.5% at-rim numbers are fine for most small guards but well below the mid-60% figures he normally puts up, and his conversion rate from 16-23 feet is down to 32%. The only silver lining might be that Ellis is shooting fewer of those long twos than usual (4.1/g vs. over 6.4/g each of the last three seasons in GS), though even his current number of attempts is too much for a guy with his (lack of) accuracy. And in case you're curious, Jennings averages a very reasonable 3.0 long two attempts per game and makes a solid 42% of them.

Brandon Jennings, model of restraint?

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