Hawks (3-5) @ Bucks (3-4)
Bucks Lineup: Mo Williams/Michael Redd/Desmond Mason/Yi Jianlian/Andrew Bogut
Hawks Lineup: Tyronn Lue/Joe Johnson/Marvin Williams/Al Horford/Zaza Pachulia
Bucks Injuries: Mike Ruffin is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured wrist.
Hawks Injuries: Starting PF Josh Smith strained his quadriceps two games ago and missed last night's game. He looks to be a gametime decision. Acie Law is out with a sprained ankle, also suffered this week. Speedy Claxton and Lorenzen Wright have yet to play this season because of a sore left knee and plantar fasciitis, respectively.
06/07 Series: The Bucks won two of three, winning in Atlanta last November before the teams traded home wins last April. The November victory was a costly one however, as Charlie Villanueva suffered the shoulder injury that eventually ended his season. Since neither team was all that interested in winning the last two games, we probably don't need to rely on those numbers too much.
- The Hawks are coming off a heartbreaking double OT loss to the Sonics in Atlanta last night, as Kevin Durant drained a fadeaway three at the buzzer to break the tie. Joe Johnson led the way with 39/5/6 in 52 minutes and Josh Childress added 22/10 in 44 minutes. Al Horford had 7/14 along with five blocks in 53 minutes. In other words, the Hawks could especially use Josh Smith back in the lineup considering everyone else will likely have some tired legs tonight. Now it's on the Bucks to take advantage.
- Will the Bucks look to run a bit more to push the tired Hawks? Both teams rank in the lower third of the league in pace, averaging about 93 possessions per game, so despite the relative youth of the two teams they've definitely been half-court teams this year. To put that in perspective, Denver is first with almost 104 possessions per game and only six teams average more than 100.
- The Hawks had been starting Horford at center while Pachulia was out, but Zaza has started the past three games with Horford now sliding into the starting PF spot in Smith's absence. Horford has been a monster on the glass, averaging 11 rpg along with 9 ppg so far this year. His biggest problem has been in the turnover department, averaging over three per game despite not being all that involved offensively. Assuming he starts with Pachulia, we should see a nice matchup of rookie PFs between Big Al and Big Yi.
- You'd think it would be a good thing from a Bucks' perspective for Tyronn Lue (now cornrow-less) to start in place of Acie Law, but Lue killed the Bucks last year with 19 ppg and 7 apg in three games.
- Marvin Williams is off to a very good start, averaging 18/6 and finally showing some reason for the Hawks to have drafted him second overall in 2005. He's developed a very nice midrange/slashing type of game. It's unclear if he'll ever be more than a very nice complementary player, but with Johnson, Smith and now Horford, Williams doesn't have to be a superstar.
- Some of Mike Redd's worst career splits are against the Hawks: 19 ppg on 43% from the field and 29% from three point range.
- On paper this should be a good matchup for Bogut, as he won't have to deal with an elite post scorer on the defensive end, but he's only had mixed success against Pachulia and the Hawks in his first two years. He scored 13 along with eight rebounds and a season-high six turnovers in his only game against the Hawks last year, but had perhaps his best game as a rookie against Atlanta, scoring 24 along with 12 rebounds and seven assists in a late season home loss.
- Last year the Bucks were among the worst in the league at rebounding, with second chance opportunities compounding their lack of individual defending. This year the defense overall hasn't been stellar (104.5 pts/100 possessions, 23rd in the league), but the Bucks are at least allowing the fewest second-chance points in the league thanks to their improved rebounding rate (10th overall).
- I'm definitely curious to keep an eye on Simmons and Villanueva's minutes after each has made a little bit of noise about the rotation uncertainty so far. Well, noise might be a bit harsh, but clearly both guys want to be more involved. People are still saying the right things, but how those two guys fit into the Bucks' plans will be a continuing theme all season long. While Yi and Desmond Mason have put up nice individual numbers so far, so far they've also been the guys most essential (along with Redd) to the Bucks' overall effectiveness. Take a look at the net +/- stats and you'll notice that while Yi (+21) and Mason (a silly +33) have the best net +/- ratings per 100 possessions on the team, Simmons (-26) and Villanueva (-30) have been among the worst. Ironically, this comes after Mason had among the worst adjusted +/- stats in the league last year. Coming into the season I figured the Bucks' bench would be a strength, but so far the key bench guys have been sieves defensively. For the Bucks to take the next step that needs to change.