Bucks (16-24, 5-18 road, 10th East) @ Hornets (27-12, 12-7 road, 2nd West)
Bucks Stats: Offense 19th (100.8 pts/100 poss), Defense 27th (107.0), Rebounding 14th (.504 rr), Pace 17th (93.4)
Hornets Stats: Offense 10th (105.9 pts/100 poss), Defense 3rd (99.8), Rebounding 11th (.507 rr), Pace 26th (92.4)
Bucks Injuries: Desmond Mason is out at least a few more weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb. David Noel still hasn't played since injuring his wrist in November. Bobby Simmons missed the Jan. 19 game against the Warriors with a stiff neck and is listed as day-to-day.
Hornets Injuries: Bernard Robinson is out with a torn left MCL. Bobby Jackson has a strained right hamstring but played in the team's last game on Jan. 18 against the Bobcats.
- The Hornets have won four straight, including a 112-84 win over the Bobcats on on Jan. 18. The Hornets are rolling, and given what the franchise has been through, their good fortunes are much deserved. Plus, Chris Paul is one of the most exciting players to watch, Tyson Chandler has defied the many naysayers birthed in Chicago, and David West is one of the quietest stars in the league. It's a big three very easy to root for... except when playing the Bucks. No matter, these Hornets are going to be tough to stop.
Three of their last four victories have come at home by an average margin of 28.3 points.
"I think we were kind of angered by that Laker loss," Hornets center Tyson Chandler said of the 109-80 defeat on Jan. 9. "They definitely caught our attention and woke us up and now the other teams are paying for it."
- We all figured that not a lot would seperate most teams in the East this season. The Celtics and Pistons predictably have distanced themselves, but aside from the Magic and Heat, the rest of the conference is pretty bunched up. The Bucks are right in the middle of a big group of teams staying just close enough to the eighth playoff spot to maintain some hope. It's striking upon looking at the standings that the Bucks are one of four teams in the conference with exactly 16 wins. These four teams trail three others with 18 wins each.
- The Bucks came a point shy of cracking 100 points against the Warriors, meaning they have broken into triple digits only three times in their last 14 games. The Hornets play strong defense and at a slow pace. Thus, they don't allow many points. They allow 93.2 points per game, good enough for second in the West, trailing only the Spurs. They have allowed 100 points only three times in their last 15 games.
- Today's game would have marked the return of Desmond Mason to New Orleans, where he plied his trade the last two seasons. However, Mason is still out. The Bucks went 9-13 (.409) with Mason in the lineup and have gone 7-11 (.388) with him out. When he does return, it will be interesting what role he'll play. After sticking with the exact same lineup in the beginning of the season, the Bucks have been somewhat experimental lately, mostly out of necessity due to injuries. Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Yi Jianlian, and Andrew Bogut are absolute starters, and unless Redd is dealt, that isn't likely to change anytime soon. That leaves one spot open, and whether Mason, Bobby Simmons, Charlie Bell, Royal Ivey, or even Charlie Villanueva fits there best remains debatable. What is less debatable is that the none of them are likely the long-term answer to filling the spot. That said, each of these role players has made important contributions at different points in the season, and when Mason returns the Bucks will be a better team.
- They gave Andrew Bogut the damn ball. And now he's money. Tom Enlund discusses Bogut's increased role in the offense for JS Online.
Said Bogut: "I think we're just trying to have more of a balance. It's given me confidence. As compared to the last two years where, 'We're coming to you' and then two or three misses and they forget about you for the rest of the game. Now it's, like, we're going to ride you and make a concerted effort to get the ball inside."
- Bogut's awakening makes the inevitable 2005 draft storyline much less painful for Bucks fans. Chris Paul, who was drafted three spots after Bogut, comes to Milwaukee as a legitimate MVP candidate. However, there was a time, not that long ago, before Paul was making an MVP push, running the point for Team USA, resurrecting a franchise, and getting commercials. It was a time when he wasn't even yet Chris Paul in the headlines, simply "Hoops Player." If you haven't read the story about Paul's 61-point game in high school, it's time you do so. Sometimes we talk about scoring an unselfish 30 points versus a selfish 30 points. Well, you can be sure this was the most honorable 61 points anyone has strung together. Based purely on basketball, Paul is one of my favorite players. Based on the little we actually know about our hardwood heroes, Paul only cements his lofty standing.
As the star point guard and senior class president at West Forsyth High School, Chris Paul had plenty of people in his corner, but none meant more to him than his grandfather, 61-year-old service station owner Nathaniel Jones.
- Check out Hornets.com to read Jim Eichenhofer's interview with Jim Paschke.
- Also check out Hornets247 for a preview and excellent overall coverage of today's opponent.