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John Henson will be a game-time decision as the Bucks try to win consecutive games for the first time this season tonight in Charlotte. But that won't come easy against a much-improved Bobcats club that has already beaten the Bucks twice in the first two months of the season.
Injury roundup! It's not a Bucks preview without an extended discussion of injuries and lineup shuffling, so let's start with that, shall we? The (potentially) bad news is that John Henson (sore knee) will once again be a game-time decision after being a late scratch for Saturday night's win over the Sixers, prompting Larry Drew to announce this morning that Miroslav Raduljica would start in his place. Radulijica was effective offensively against Philly with 14 points on eight shots, though neither he nor anyone else on the Bucks could find a way to slow down Spencer Hawes (25 points, 11 rebounds).
That doesn't bode well for tonight's matchup against Al Jefferson, even if Jefferson's numbers might be a bit underwhelming at the moment. He's converting a career-worst 44.6% from the field while scoring at his lowest per-minute rate in eight years (16.4 ppg), though his efficiency numbers remain strong (20.3 PER, .143 WS/48) due to the fact that he never turns it over and continues to rebound (16.8%) and block shots (1.7 bpg) at a good clip. He's also upped his game recently, pouring in 22.3 ppg and 13.0 rpg over his last three.
D up. More importantly, Jefferson's bad defensive rep hasn't prevented the Bobcats from developing into one of the league's best defensive teams under rookie coach Steve Clifford. Charlotte ranks third in the league in defensive efficiency and leads the association in defensive rebound rate, though only the Bucks have been worse offensively than Charlotte's 29th ranked O.
Still, the net result has been serious progress for the Bobcats, who have already beaten the Bucks twice by a combined 40 points and enter tonight's action just a half game behind the Wizards for the fifth spot in the East. As for Jefferson, the Bobcats have actually been even better defensively with Big Al on the court, allowing 1.2 fewer pts/100 while holding opposing centers to just 42.0% eFG.
Also of note: Charlotte has actually been better on the road thus far (6-6 vs. 7-9 at home), including a disappointing 88-85 home loss to the Jazz on Saturday after back-to-back road wins in Toronto and Detroit.
3-3-3. The Bucks figure to start three small forwards for the second time in as many games, with Caron Butler, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo all projected to start in Charlotte. While everyone was understandably concerned that Butler's return would mean decreased minutes for Giannis, the Bucks' lack of bodies at the big spots has meant plenty of burn for everyone this side of Gary Neal (which isn't the worst thing given his continued issues with plantar fasciitis).
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