Bucks vs. Hawks Preview: Larry Sanders and Brandon Jennings questionable, Ersan Ilyasova and Ekpe Udoh probable

USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a painful loss--in more ways than one--the Bucks head to Atlanta on Friday hoping to get at least a couple of key rotation players back.

2012/2013 NBA Season
(43-36, 24-15 home)
vs.
(37-41, 16-22 road)
April 12, 2013
Philips Arena | Atlanta, GA
6:30 CT
FS Wisconsin Alternate | 1250 WSSP
Probable Starters
Jeff Teague PG Brandon Jennings (?)
Devin Harris SG Monta Ellis
Kyle Korver SF Marquis Daniels
Josh Smith PF Ersan Ilyasova
Al Horford C Sam Dalembert (?)
2012/13 Advanced Stats
92.5 (12th) Pace 94.6 (3rd)
104.9 (18th) ORtg 103.7 (21st)
104.2 (10th) DRtg 105.2 (12th)

On the Hawks: Peachtree Hoops / Hoopinion / Hawks Str8Talk / Atlanta Journal Constitution

Hawks update. On the heels of their blowout win over the Sixers on Wednesday, sixth-seeded Atlanta enters the weekend one loss behind the fifth-seeded Bulls in a race that appears destined to go down to the wire. Atlanta has the Bucks, Raptors and Knicks (at MSG) left, while the Bulls play in Toronto, Miami and Orlando before finishing the season at home against the Wizards. But the Bulls also own the head-to-head tiebreaker, which means that the Hawks almost have to win out in order to have a chance at meeting Brooklyn rather than Indiana. So presumably they're motivated, and having beaten the Bucks three times already it's difficult to say they won't be clear favorites against a Milwaukee team struggling with both injuries (more on that below) and the inability to play well for sustained periods (kind of an important issue).

Rumors continue to swirl around Larry Drew's future as coach, though from the outside it would seem he's done a rather respectable job winning games despite injuries and key departures over the past two seasons. Philly snapped a three game skid with the easy win in Philly on Wednesday, and Josh Smith, Al Horford, Devin Harris, and Kyle Korver are all now back from recent injuries.

Walking wounded. Brandon Jennings hasn't missed a game in about two years, but he's listed as questionable tonight after departing Wednesday's crushing loss in Orlando midway through the first quarter with Achilles soreness. Ditto for Larry Sanders, who continued playing after a rough fall on his lower back in Orlando but eventually left the game for good. Considering the Bucks are three games back of Boston in the loss column with four relatively tough games left, I'd suggest going easy on the injured guys, which could mean Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick starting in the backcourt.

In the frontcourt it's anyone's guess--Ersan Ilyasova (illness) and Ekpe Udoh (ankle) are listed as probable, so I'll presume Ilyasova returns to his usual starting PF slot. In the middle it could be Sam Dalembert resurrected from his DNP grave to battle with Al Horford. Or Udoh. Or even John Henson if Jim Boylan feeling frisky, though I'd suspect Horford would do a lot of bullying down low whenever he's matched against the Bucks' rookie. Still, you'd think Henson sees early burn following his epic night in Orlando on Wednesday.

Henson. Speaking of which, Andrew Gruman writes that Henson's big night in Orlando was the latest payoff from a season full of learning--and hard work.

"He has a lot of improvement that he can (make)," Boylan said. "He has a lot of skills to work with. He just needs to focus his energy and attention to the details of the game, to getting himself better. He's been doing a much better job of that recently. I think the light has gone on in understanding what he needs to do. If he does that, that's all you can ask for."

While Tobias Harris' game-winning efforts understandably have delivered plenty of heartburn, Henson's performance shouldn't be overlooked: no rookie had grabbed 25 boards in a game since Shaq twenty years ago, and only Shaq, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo have ever posted a 17/25/7 line. Crazy. And hopefully a sign of great things to come.

Playoffs. Over at Bucks.com, Alex serves up a valuable history lesson on the Bucks' playoff history.

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