Lakers (7-3, 3-1 road)@ Bucks (5-4, 4-0 home)
Bucks Lineup: Mo Williams/Michael Redd/Desmond Mason/Yi Jianlian/Andrew Bogut
Lakers Lineup: Derek Fisher/Kobe Bryant/Vladimir Radmanovic/Lamar Odom/Andrew Bynum (ETA: This was their lineup last night, but Forum Blue and Gold has Turiaf likely starting ahead of Radmanovic)
Bucks Injuries: Mike Ruffin is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured wrist.
Lakers Injuries: Kwame Brown is out about a month with a leg injury suffered two games ago against the Bulls. Ronny Turiaf is back with the team following an ankle injury.
06/07 Series: The Bucks surprisingly swept the Lakers, winning 109-105 at the Staples Center on November 28 and completing the sweep at the BC with a 110-90 rout on March 7. The Lakers had won the previous eight meetings between the two teams. Redd had arguably his best game of the season in LA, scoring 45 along with eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. Bryant had 27 on just 7/23 fg, while Lamar Odom had a huge 21/13/8 night. Bryant was suspended for the game in Milwaukee, in which Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut combined for 48 points on a ridiculous 20/24 from the field. That offset an anonymous night from Redd, who had just 10 points, one rebound and one assist in 32 minutes.
- Both teams come into the game with early season win streaks, the Bucks at three and the Lakers at four following their 134-114 annihilation of the Pacers last night. According to ESPN, the Lakers rank second in the league in offensive efficiency (107.9 pts/100 possessions) while also ranking ninth in defensive efficiency (99.6)). Meanwhile the Bucks rank 14th offensively (102.5) and 21st defensively (104.2), so their winning record is coming in spite of a net negative point differential.
- Tempo could be a key tonight, as the Lakers are seventh in the league in pace (99.4) compared to the Bucks' 21st ranking (93.8). While the Bucks have won all four of the games in which they've broken the 100 point barrier, the Lakers shouldn't have trouble keeping pace if the Bucks decide to push the tempo. The Bucks losses meanwhile have been pretty straightforward: they've given up 100+ in each loss and they've scored less than 100 in each loss.
- After outrebounding one of the league's best teams last night, the Bucks will face an even better rebounding team tonight in the Lakers--the Lakers are 2nd in rebound rate.
- Bogut's 22 point effort in this same fixture last year came two days after laying a goose egg in Orlando. It's that sort of inconsistency that Bogut needs to avoid this year, and so far his all-around game has been a key factor in the Bucks' recent success. Bogut is averaging 19 ppg, 9 rpg and 4 bpg in the last three Bucks' wins. And let's repeat this stat again: in nine games this year Bogut has blocked four or more shots four times. He accomplished that feat just once in his first 148 games.
- Bogut will be matched up with Andrew Bynum, who has quietly become one of the most valuable commodities in the league. Check out his numbers and watch him play and you'll see why the Lakers were loathe to trade the 20-year old 7-footer last year, even when Jason Kidd was on the table. The third-year big man is averaging 11.1 ppg and 9.7 rpg while shooting 60% from the field and 78% from the line in just 24.5 mpg. He got his first start of the season last night, scoring 17 on 6/6 fg along with 10 rebounds and four blocks. I know it's early, but Bynum will very possibly be challenging (and quite possible beating out) Greg Oden for the West's starting all-star center spot for the next 15 years.
- Tonight will likely be the Laker debut of Trevor Ariza, whom the Lakers acquired yesterday from the Magic for PF Brian Cook and SF Mo Evans. Trading Cook and losing Brown thins the Lakers' big man rotation a bit, though Ronny Turiaf is back with the team following and ankle sprain. Turiaf and Mihm are the other 4/5 options. Brown's absence will mean bigger minutes for Bynum, which might not be a good thing for the Bucks.
- Yi Jianlian has been quiet the past few games (5.3 ppg in his last three), but Charlie Villanueva's confidence is back up following back-to-back 17-point performances in which he also closed out the game. Yi's parents are supposed to be at the Bradley Center tonight to see him play for the first time in the NBA, so let's hope he can bounce back and make them proud.
- I'd guess Mason will guard Kobe at the outset, which leaves a fairly tall assignment for Michael Redd in the 6'10" Radmanovic. Fortunately Radmanovic is mainly a spot-up shooter, but that would also mean Yi will have his hands full with Odom.
- The starting backcourt has been getting the job done for the Bucks, with Mike Redd averaging 24/6/4 and Mo Williams coming on as well with 13.7 ppg and 10.3 apg in the current win streak. Last night Mo also didn't commit a turnover after committing 10 in the previous two games combined. For the season Williams is averaging 12 fga in 34 mpg compared to 15 fga in 36 mpg last year. Keep it up, Mo.
- Coby Karl played in his second game last night, scoring his first career points on a couple free throws. Karl is of course the son of former Bucks coach George Karl and a graduate of Homestead High. Congratulations, Coby.
- For more on the Lakers, check out the consistently fantastic Forum Blue and Gold.