Bucks (2-2) @ Rockets (4-1)
Bucks Lineup: Mo Williams/Michael Redd/Desmond Mason/Yi Jianlian/Andrew Bogut
Rockets Lineup: Rafer Alston/Tracy McGrady/Chuck Hayes/Shane Battier/Yao Ming
Bucks Injuries: None really.
Rockets Injuries: None really.
06/07 Series: The Rockets won both meetings, including a nineteen point victory in Houston. However, the Bucks somewhat amazingly only have two players back from that game: Michael Redd and Charlie Bell.
- The story of the game is the first NBA matchup pitting China’s two favorite basketball sons: Yi versus Yao. Although they aren’t likely to literally match up against one another more than a couple times, it’s safe to say a mere brushing of shoulders will inspire a lot of flashbulbs. From a basketball standpoint, Yao right now is at the level optimistic Bucks fans dream Yi will someday reach. Yao is averaging 21.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks and is coming off a big 28/13/6 performance in a win over the Spurs. Meanwhile, Yi is more than holding his own, currently ranked third among rookies, averaging 9.8 points. As a rookie, Yao didn't explode until his tenth game, scoring 30 points and pulling down 16 rebounds in his first NBA showdown against fellow international star Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. We can only hope Yi does as well in this hyped showdown.
- The real star matchup however comes at shooting guard where Michael Redd faces off against the dynamic Tracy McGrady. It's tough to find bigger pure scorers in the league than Redd but McGrady is one of them. He comes into the game ranked second in the NBA in points per game with 28.8. McGrady's downfall is lack of playoff success. He has yet to reach the second round in his career, but this isn't the playoffs and McGrady and the Rockets are hot. Redd, whose all around game is improving, will have the unenviable task of guarding McGrady. So far, Redd has done well to handicap opposing team's shooting guards: Keith Bogans, Jason Richardson, Ben Gordon, and Anthony Parker have combined to average just 12 points, 2.25 rebounds, and 1 assist against Redd and the Bucks. Offensively, Redd lit up the Rockets last year, averaging 30 points and 12.5 free-throws attempts.
- Point guard play is something to keep an eye on. Steve Francis found his way back to Houston, where many thought he'd rediscover his form. However, he has yet to play, with the Rockets preferring a couple of guys who also have their fair share of critics: Rafer Alston and Mike James. Neither has shot the ball well early on, and McGrady leads the team in assists. Mo Williams, who broke out against the Raptors after a slow start, needs to win the point guard battle for the Bucks to have a realistic chance of winning. Fortunately, he should get help from Charlie Bell, who has looked pretty sharp given his wild offseason.
- Desmond Mason has lived up to his starting status so far, though his 10-10 performance will be especially difficult to replicate against the Rockets, who have a stable of crafty, tough defenders like Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes. Perhaps it is Bobby Simmons' turn to shine because in his first season in Milwaukee in 2005-06 he averaged 21 points on .500 shooting from the field against the Rockets.