|24-17 (11-10 road)
|20-24 (11-7 home)
|January 21, 2009 - 7:00PM CT
|Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FS Wisconsin
Bucks: Andrew Bogut missed the three game road trip and is listed as day-to-day with back spasms.
Mavs: Josh Howard returned to the Mavs' lineup against Philadelphia after missing four games with a wrist injury.
Nine lives. Though the Mavs have four more wins and seven fewer losses than the Bucks, both teams enter tonight's game in the dreaded ninth spot of their respective conferences. Ah yes, hoops purgatory: not good enough for the playoffs, not bad enough to get a high draft pick. The Bucks seemed rooted to the eight spot for a couple weeks, but their recent dip in form has allowed Jersey (19-22) to sneak back to a half game ahead of them. Even though the trio of Harris, Carter and Lopez look pretty good, I have a hard time seeing the Nets keep it up all season, a fact underscored by their lottery-worthy scoring differential: they have an expected winning percentage of .395 vs. their actual .463 record. Meanwhile, Philly (20-21) has also leapfrogged the Bucks in part to taking both games between the two teams this season, and much of that came with Elton Brand on the shelf.
Dallas meanwhile kicked off their four game Eastern swing with a 95-93 win in Philly earlier this week, as Dirk Nowitzki buried the Sixers at the buzzer. Still, the Suns remain ahead of them by percentage points for the 8th spot, though the good news is that the top nine in the West are pretty close once you take the Lakers out of the equation. Dallas is only 1.5 games behind the Rockets for fifth and there's no chance they drop any further than ninth--Minnesota is 10th out West but a whopping 10.5 games back.
Bucks' Big D? The Bucks had spent a good chunk of the season ranked in the NBA's top ten defensivey, but their recent struggles have seen their defensive efficiency drop to 13th in the league. The Bucks had struggled for a couple weeks to defend the three point line, but with Bogut out their lack of physicality inside has also come back to haunt them. Whereas Milwaukee was in the top five in defensive rebounding for most of the season, they've now dropped all the way down to 11th, though they still claim the third-best offensive rebounding rate in the NBA.
Dollars and sense. At this point Bucks fans are well aware of the financial maneuvering needed to keep the Bucks avoid the luxury tax next season, but the Mavs also have caponomics on their minds. In the offseason they curiously gave Desagana Diop a five year, $31 million deal a few months after shipping him the New Jersey in the Kidd/Harris deal. Which was odd considering that Diop had never gotten more than 18 mpg while he was in Dallas. Sure, he's a nice defensive big off the bench, but an MLE deal?
Apparently it didn't take long for Mark Cuban and Donn Nelson to figure out it was a mistake, as they just shipped Diop to Charlotte for Matt Carroll (five years, $21.5 million remaining) and Ryan Hollins. Carroll for some reason got a six year deal from Michael Jordan two summers ago (note to Matt: your agent is a genius), but the deal still saves the Mavs some money in he long run. And Carroll might actually get some minutes in Dallas given Rick Carlisle's preference for using Jason Terry as a bench combo. That's why the Mavs have had a rotating cast of non-entities (Antoine Wright, Gerald Green, Devean George, Jerry Stackhouse) starting at shooting guard all season. Michael Redd destroyed Carroll on back-to-back nights earlier this month, so hopefully Carlisle allows that matchup to happen again tonight.