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Bucks/Bobcats: Preview

Bucks (12-20, 3-15 road, 12th East) @ Bobcats (11-20, 10-9 home, 13th East)

Gametime: 5:00 pm CT
TV: FSN Wisconsin/League Pass/Free NBA Broadband
Radio: 620 WTMJ/Stream Free @NBA.com
Bucks Gameday

Bucks Stats: Offense 20th (100.4 pts/100 poss), Defense 28th (107.3), Rebounding 12th (.508 rr), Pace 21st (93.3)
Bobcats Stats: Offense 25th (99.1 pts/100 poss), Defense 25th (105.0), Rebounding 27th (.482 rr), Pace 16th (93.9)

Bucks Lineup: Mo Williams / Charlie Bell / Bobby Simmons / Yi Jianlian / Andrew Bogut
Bobcats Lineup: Jeff McInnis / Raymond Felton / Jason Richardson / Gerald Wallace / Emeka Okafor

Bucks Injuries: Michael Redd was out against the Wizards due to a thig bruise and is listed as day-to-day. Desmond Mason is out 6-8 weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb. David Noel has been out with a wrist injury. Jake Voskuhl was out against the Wizards because of a sore hip and is listed as day-to-day. Dan Gadzuric apparently has a shoulder bruise.
Bobcats Injuries: Adam Morrison (ACL) and Sean May (micro-fracture) are out for the year.

07/08 Series: Tied 1-1. The Bobcats won their home opener against the Bucks 102-99 on Nov. 2 (my recap / Frank's recap ). Bogut had 11 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks, but Raymond Felton poured in 26 points along with 12 assists as the Bobs overcame a 22/43 night from the line to outlast the Bucks. Gerald Wallace had 22/10 and Okafor 17/14 for the Bobs, as Mo Williams mistakenly went for a layup when the Bucks were actually down three in the waning seconds. On Dec. 22, Yi Jianlian led the Bucks to a 103-99 win at the Bradley Center  (Frank's recap). A lot has transpired in Milwaukee and Charlotte in the two weeks since Yi started 12-12 en route to having his best NBA game, and most of it hasn't been good.

Key Points:

  • The Bobcats can perhaps in part blame the Bucks for starting their downward spiral that has resulted in them falling far short of the current playoff picture, at 11-20. You see, they came into the Bradley Center on Dec. 22 in high spirits after beating the Jazz and the Knicks. Yet they haven't recovered after Yi's near-perfect performance, having lost six of their last seven. On Friday, they blew an early lead to the Nets before losing 102-96.  Bucks fans should be familiar with the Bobcats' depth problem. Against the Nets, Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace provided 58 points, 20 rebounds, and nine assists together, but received little offensive help.
  • After shooting 27.9 % and turning the ball over 4.3 times per game against the Bucks last season, Raymond Felton  has them figured out this time around. In the first two matchups, he's averaging 21.5 points, 10.5 assists, and 2.5 steals. However, he has struggled badly over the last six games since playing the Bucks, shooting 32.3 % (22-68) from the field and 5.8 % (1-17) on three pointers.
  • Despite his strong play, Michael Redd might not be an All-Star this season. He ranks sixth among Eastern Conference guards in the latest returns, and faces tough competition to make it in as a non-starter. And unless he miraculously leads the Bucks to a division title, we know that Redd isn't going to win the MVP award this season. If the game against the Wizards was any indication though, Redd is basically invaluable to the Bucks' success. Without him in the lineup for the first time this season, the Bucks scored all of 10 points in the first quarter, at home, against a .500 team that was missing a key piece as well. The Wizards, 13-10 since losing Gilbert Arenas, are the model of how to succeed while missing a star guard. Unfortunately, the Bucks have neither the depth nor the star quality second and third players that the Wizards do. Interestingly, the Bucks excelled without Redd on the floor in important stages against the Heat, but in general, he's the most positive, important player when on the floor for the Bucks.
  • Charlie Bell, who started in place of the injured Redd against the Wizards, balanced out his strong 5-9 shooting game against the Heat with an 0-6 clunker against the Wizards. I don't think Bell is having the worst season ever. Why? He plays average defense for one thing. He also takes care of the ball, sporting a better assist-to-turnover ratio, 2.91, than Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and Tony Parker. Further, his Roland Rating of -2.1 doesn't indicate he's having a historically negative impact, especially when compared to fellow disappointment Simmons' -9.9 Roland Rating. That said, Bell somewhat ironically is competing with fellow offseason holdout, malcontent guard Sasha Pavlovic and a few others for the distinction of having the most inexplicably bad season. In other words, if there was an opposite of the Most Improved Player, we might actually have an award winner in Milwaukee.
  • Simmons has struggled as the result of physical and emotional issues, both completely legitimate. Bell, on the other hand, seems mentally wounded, but for what reason it's hard to tell. Charles Gardner has a really good article about how Bell is admittedly off his game. He also quotes Coach Krystkowiak about possible rotation changes.

    "You've got people yelling out my shooting percentages, and people telling me to give it up. It's tough. Mentally, I'm having a hard time getting through it right now. We've got two games on the road, and hopefully I can rekindle what I had in Miami."

  • Although Redd and Voskuhl joined Mason on the sideline against the Wizards, the Bucks can't blame injuries for their woeful play of late. While Mason was enjoying somewhat of a resurgence this season, the ship was sinking prior to his absence. Redd, Bogut, and Williams are the core, and they've remained relatively healthy. The Bucks recently beat up on the underachieving Heat, a club with real health excuses. Now the Bucks face the underachieving Bobcats, who were stung with preseason injuries to Sean May and Adam Morrison, but have also remained relatively healthy since the season's start. There is some time left for both teams to make a playoff push, but tonight's loser won't be feeling good, as this is the type of game both teams mark on the calendar as a must-win.
  • Based on point differential, the Bucks can't complain about having a better record than only seven NBA teams. The Bucks' -6.5 point differential is third worst in the NBA, better than only the Knicks and Timberwolves. The Bucks rarely dominate opponents for four quarters. For instance, in their Dec. 22 win over the Bobcats, the Bucks led by 22 late in the third quarter, but held on to win by just four points.
  • Read Queen City Hoops for more on the Bobcats.