Bucks vs. Blazers preview: Milwaukee hoping to finish road trip with another win

USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks will try to finish their current road trip with a 3-1 record when they visit the Trail Blazers in Portland.

2012/2013 NBA Season
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(20-19, 13-6 home)
vs.
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(20-18, 10-9 road)
January 19, 2012
Rose Garden | Portland, OR
9:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Damian Lillard PG Brandon Jennings
Wesley Matthews SG Monta Ellis
Nicolas Batum SF Luc Mbah a Moute
J.J. Hickson PF Ersan Ilyasova
LaMarcus Aldridge C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
90.9 (21st) Pace 93.9 (6th)
104.6 (14th) ORtg 102.1 (27th)
106.9 (23rd) DRtg 103.2 (7th)

On the Blazers: Blazers Edge | PDX Roundball Society | The Oregonian

PDX update. Despite all the Sturm and Drang about the basketball abomination that is the Eastern Conference, the 8th-seeded Trail Blazers actually enter tonight's game a half game worse record-wise than the 7th-seeded Bucks. Carrying a season-worst four game losing streak into tonight's game, the Blazers have a bit more looking over their shoulder to do, however, as Houston (21-20) sits just percentage points behind them. Still, before the Blazers' current slide it had been shaping up as a solid turnaround season for Portland under one-time Bucks coach Terry Stotts.

While LaMarcus Aldridge remains the team's offensive focal point, the big storyline in Portland to date has been rookie point guard Damian Lillard. Stotts has given the sixth overall pick the keys to the Portland car, and the former Weber State star has responded with rookie of the year-type numbers: 18.1 ppg and 6.5 apg on solid 53.7% true shooting in a very un-rookie-like 38 mpg. I'd stop short of calling the 22-year-old this year's Kyrie Irving--he's too old for that--but the Blazers certainly appear to have found themselves a keeper.

Lillard's show-stopping debut season has helped offset a downturn in Aldridge's game; he's still pouring in 20.6 ppg and 8.6 rpg, but his efficiency has dropped (56% to 52% true shooting, career-low 46.5% shooting from the field). Needless to say he'll present a formidable challenge in the post for Larry Sanders, who's coming off one of the best games of his breakout season (19 pts, 15 rebs, 2 blks vs. Phoenix) and has excelled defending the post thus far this season.

Nicolas Batum, Wes Matthews and free agent-to-be J.J. Hickson round out a young and talented starting five, but there isn't a ton of depth behind them; nobody outside the starting lineup has a PER over 13. 11th-overall pick Meyers Leonard has played reasonably well, but he was lost indefinitely to an ankle injury in late December.

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