Bucks vs. Bobcats Preview | Charlotte stops by for lunchtime showdown

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

After getting trounced in a noon tilt against the Knicks yesterday, the Bucks will need to get up a little earlier in the morning if they want to tangle with the newly-respectable Bobcats.

2013/2014 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(13-53, 8-26 home)
vs.
(32-34, 13-20 road)
March 16, 2014
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
12:00 CT
No Local TV | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Kemba Walker
Nate Wolters SG Chris Douglas-Roberts
Khris Middleton SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Ersan Ilyasova PF Josh McRoberts
Zaza Pachulia C Al Jefferson
2013/14 Advanced Stats
94.1 (25th) Pace 95.3 (21st)
99.3 (27th) ORtg 100.0 (25th)
108.0 (t-29th) DRtg 101.2 (7th)

On the BobcatsRufus on FireQueen City HoopsBobcats Baseline

Bobcats Update: Charlotte made a clear effort to pull themselves out of the NBA's basement this season, announcing to the league they were tired of languishing in the lottery with a 3-year, $40.5 million contract for free-agent center Al Jefferson. It was arguably the biggest signing the Cats had made in franchise history, a big step for a team that had known little success in recent seasons.

The team has greatly improved under first-year head coach Steve Clifford, but the miserable Eastern Conference deserves some credit for keeping the Bobcats squarely in the playoff mix. Charlotte currently holds the 7th seed, 2 games ahead of 8th-seeded Atlanta and 3 back of 5th-seeded Washington. The Cats are two games under .500, a mark they've been fighting to attain ever since a November win over the Bucks brought their record to 7-7. They're as close as they've been in some time, just two games below even, having won 5 of their last six games. Taking on the Bucks has to have them feeling confident--they're 3-0 versus Milwaukee this season, though they needed overtime to capture the last one.

Al Pal. For his part, Jefferson has largely delivered as promised. Big Al is 8th in rebounds per game, and while his 52.7 TS% is a bit low, Jefferson never turns the ball over and maintains a top-15 usage rate among all qualified players. He's the engine that makes Charlotte's offense go, slow as it may.

Perhaps more impressive has been his improvement on defense. He's always had a reputation as a generally indifferent defender, but he's earned a great deal of praise for his role in Charlotte's top-10 defense this season. In fact, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Jefferson has more defensive win shares than offensive wins shares this season.

Buyer's Remorse? It was a trade intended, presumably, to make the Bobcats better and the Bucks...well, a little cheaper, if nothing else. But the trade that sent Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal to Charlotte hasn't worked out quite as well as the Bobs might have hoped. Luke Ridnour has been an abject disaster, sporting a 3.7 PER in 9 games. Neal has actually given Charlotte exactly what they needed--he's shooting over 50% from behind the arc on decent volume. He did run into some off-the-court trouble, getting benched for Charlotte's contest against the Washington Wizards last Wednesday due to an "internal team matter." Neal's new squad appears eager to give him minutes and plenty of shot attempts, so it's hard to imagine what might have troubled him, but it sounds like a minor isolated incident. The Bucks can expect to see plenty of long-range attempts coming off Neal's fingertips in his return today.

Zaza Q&A. Prior to the Bucks' game in Atlanta last Thursday, Jane Hammond of our Hawks affiliate blog Peachtree Hoops sat down for a chat with Zaza Pachulia. It's a decidedly Atlanta-themed interview, but Zaza also has some things to say about the Bucks' future and his connection with Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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