Bucks vs. Nuggets Preview | Bucks visit Nuggets dreaming of first (!) win streak

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Forty-eight games into the season and the Bucks are still looking for their first winning streak of more than one game. They get their ninth shot at it Wednesday in Denver when they take on a Nuggets squad trying to scrape their way back into the Western playoff picture.

2013/2014 NBA Season
Den
(23-23, 13-11 home)
vs.
Mil_medium
(9-39, 4-21 road)
February 5, 2014
Pepsi Center | Denver, CO
8:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson PG Brandon Knight
Randy Foye SG Nate Wolters
Wilson Chandler SF Khris Middleton
Kenneth Faried PF Ersan Ilyasova
J.J. Hickson C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
96.9 (4th) Pace 91.6 (25th)
107.2 (11th) ORtg 99.1 (30th)
106.6 (17th) DRtg 109.3 (29th)

On the NuggetsDenver StiffsRoundball Mining Co. / Denver Post / Nugg Love

Nuggets update. Denver enters tonight's matchup on the periphery of the Western Conference playoff picture, trailing the Mavericks by 3.5 for the final playoff spot out West with Memphis also 2.5 games up on them. Like the Bucks, they're coming off an emotional home win on Monday, as Randy Foye's buzzer-beating three-point prayer sunk the Clippers 116-115 to snap a two-game home losing streak. Kenneth Faried led the way with 28 points and 11 boards while Ty Lawson added 27 points for Denver as the Nuggets weather 36 points and 11 boards from Blake Griffin.

Brian Shaw's first year as Nuggets coach has been something of a roller-coaster thus far, though that was to be expected after the 57-game squad from a year ago was essentially blown up by a combination of high-profile departures (GM Masai Ujiri, coach George Karl, Andre Iguodala) and bad injury luck. Danilo Gallinari is out for the season following a second procedure on the knee he blew out last spring, while JaVale McGee has played five games all season. The Nuggets don't play quite as fast as they did under Karl (4th in pace, 9th in fast break points, 8th in points in the paint), but they're still an efficient, balanced offense that ranks between 10th and 12th in each of the offensive four factors. Defensively they're so-so, ranking 17th in efficiency but 9th in eFG% thanks largely to ranking 4th in three point percentage conceded.

Letter of the Lawson. Losing your supporting cast generally isn't a good thing for point guards, but don't tell Ty Lawson. With Andre Iguodala gone and Danilo Gallinari (ACL) and JaVale McGee (leg) out with long-term injuries, Lawson is perhaps not surprisingly scoring a team-leading and career-best 18.2 ppg, relying on a notably higher free throw rate to offset career-low marks from the field (43.0%) and deep (34.8%).

That's probably to be expected: with Denver's other weapons on the shelf, Lawson's had to take on a higher scoring load and seen his shooting numbers fall with increased volume. But even with his raw FG% declining for the fourth straight season, Lawson's overall true shooting remains a more-than-healthy 55.2% thanks to all those free throws. The more surprising number is in the passing department: Lawson's assist number is a career-best 8.8 apg, well north of the 7.2 apg number he put up a year ago, and he averaged a whopping 11.1 apg in January.

Finally some good news in Milwaukee. It only took them 49 games, but the Bucks finally surpassed the Packers' 2013 win total with an energizing 101-98 win over the Knicks on Monday. Brandon Knight capped a 25-point night with a game-winning three with two seconds left, though the real fun was in watching Giannis Antetokounmpo put on a show for his recently-arrived parents and two younger brothers.

The great news is that Giannis' family is now here for good after a protracted visa process was finally sorted out with the help of Herb Kohl's special assistant JoAnne Anton. Via Charles Gardner:

Giannis has a P-1 Visa as a foreign athlete working in the U.S.

The U.S. Embassy in Greece issued a P Visa for Support Personnel to Giannis' dad, Charles, who qualified as providing emotional and mental support as well as developing Giannis' ability in his sport of choice.

Giannis did not start playing basketball until he was a teenager and both he and his older brother, Thanasis, were initially instructed by their dad.

Thanasis is now playing in the NBA Development League for the Delaware 87ers and is eligible for the 2014 NBA draft.

Giannis' mom, Veronica, and Kostas, age 16, and Alexandros, 12, qualify on the same support visa.

Injury report. John Henson (wrist) is expected to be available off the bench after missing the past three games, while Caron Butler (high ankle sprain) joins O.J. Mayo (back practicing after a lengthy illness), Gary Neal (back), Ekpe Udoh (ankle), and Carlos Delfino (leg) on the shelf. In short, everyone we're interested in seeing on the court should be available.

Henson told the JS that he had been battling the wrist problem for a while, but finally decided to let it heal properly before returning to the court. Amen.

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