Bucks vs. Heat Preview | Depleted Bucks open tough road trip against LeBron James and the champs

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

A day after losing Larry Sanders for the remainder of the calendar year, the Bucks kick off a daunting three-game road trip in the most beautifully daunting of places: in Miami against LeBron and the world champion Heat.

2013/14 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(2-3, 1-1 road)
vs.
(4-3, 3-1 home)
November 12, 2013
American Airlines Arena | Miami, FL
7:30 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass
Probable Starters
Nate Wolters PG Mario Chalmers
O.J. Mayo SG Dwyane Wade
Khris Middleton SF Shane Battier
Caron Butler PF LeBron James
Zaza Pachulia C Chris Bosh
2013/14 Advanced Stats
91.8 (27th) Pace 93.2 (20th)
102.4 (19th) ORtg 112.8 (1st)
104.5 (15th) DRtg 108.2 (27th)

On the HeatHot Hot HoopsHeat Index

Bucks injury report. Ah yes, our favorite part of every preview. And the one we always seem to spend waaaaaay too much time on. As of Monday afternoon, this is what the latest news was:

Then a few hours later, Larry Sanders' "day-to-day" became "a day about six weeks from now." And a day later, Ilyasova was officially out for the Bucks' three game trip. And so it goes. Steve and I discussed the ins and outs of the Sanders Saga last night, but the bottom line is that the Bucks now face the unenviable task of surviving through the end of the calendar year without their most impactful player. Can they really stay afloat? Odds are slim that they'd beat the Heat either way, but the next few weeks may well be pivotal in shaping what's really possible for this team to accomplish this season.

Henson's chance. Zaza Pachulia and John Henson figure to start and Ekpe Udoh will be leaned on more heavily so long as Ilyasova and Sanders are out, though it will also be interesting to see how Larry Drew modifies his starting lineup once Ilyasova is back. Hint: I'm not too excited about the prospect of Pachulia and Ilyasova starting together, which is why I'm glad to hear that--like late last season--Henson is anticipating seeing plenty of minutes at center in Sanders' absence. Via Charles Gardner:

"Last year I played the 5 toward the end of the season when Larry was out," Henson said. "Now I'm probably going to have to step in a lot more.

"I probably will play more 5 than 4. The advantages they (opponents) have is size maybe, but I have quickness and speed," Henson said. "It's going to be fun. I think I do play well at the 5 when I get a chance.

"It's going to be cool to see what happens until we get Larry back."

Heat hurting, tooWith Udonis Haslem, Ray Allen and Greg Oden out tonight, the Heat are expected to go "small" with LeBron and Shane Battier at the forwards; the Bucks are expected to counter with a Khris Middleton/Caron Butler forward pairing and Zaza Pachulia in the middle. I really don't like Zaza's odds of hanging with the floor-stretching Bosh, so it will be interesting to see if Henson winds up playing center by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.  I also feel like Middleton probably has a better shot at not getting destroyed by LeBron, but as always defending the King is a team effort more than anything.

Miami has struggled defensively through their first seven games (27th in efficiency), an issue that hasn't been lost on LeBron. Via SI.com:

"It's simple. These first seven games, we're playing like s- defensively," James said, according to ESPN.com. "It's that simple. We're not a sugarcoat team. We came in and got right down to it. We're terrible on defense, and we've got to change that."

The Heat entered Tuesday's game against Milwaukee ranked 25th in points allowed per possession, according to ESPN.com's figures, and 27th based on Basketball-Reference's defensive efficiency calculations. Miami is also 26th in field-goal defense (47.3 percent) and 21st in points allowed (100.9). Those numbers help explain why the Heat are only a game above .500 despite leading the NBA in offensive efficiency.

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