Notes after the jump...
Defense, Defense, DefenseIt's no secret what's winning games for the Bucks right now. And contrary to what Clyde Frazier suggested during MSG's broadcast of the Knicks/Bucks game on Saturday, their strong defensive stats are not merely the product of a slow pace. In fact, their efficiency stats are slightly better than their raw numbers at the moment because of their above average pace. Consider (most stats from Knickerblogger as of yesterday):
- The Bucks rank 1st in the NBA in defensive efficiency (91.0 pts/100 possessions), the cleanest way to measure defense while controlling for pace (where the 12th-ranked Bucks are also above average by the way).
- Since efficiency stats still seem to be too new age for the mainstream, you'll also be pleased to know the Bucks are second in eFG% allowed (45.4%). Note that while the Bucks were smack dab in the middle of the league in efficiency last year, they weren't particularly good in fg% allowed a year ago.
And if for some reason you still prefer points per game allowed, they're second in that department, too (85.2 ppg).
Sure, it's a small sample size, and the Bucks haven't played any particularly good teams in the opening five games, so there's no point in getting carried away just yet. Moreover, all that energy on defense is needed to compensate for ranking 28th in offensive efficiency (96.5), which we knew would be an issue coming into the season.
Jennings' biggest test yet. Up until now Jennings has faced a slew of quality young PGs (Rose, Lou Williams, Jonny Flynn, Rodney Stuckey) and Chris Duhon. So while Jennings has impressed through five games, he's yet to face anyone with Chauncey Billups' credentials (an injury-slowed Derrick Rose doesn't count), and it's not just Billups' street cred that worries you. Billups' ability to use his size and strength in the post could be a major issue for the slightly built rookie, and Scott Skiles told Jim Paschke that they'll probably give help at times on both Billups and Carmelo Anthony, who oh by the way is averaging 30 ppg and can also kill you from the post.
In Vegas, Jennings struggled against Tyreke Evans in the post before he started fronting more effectively, and he also used his speed to create problems against the bigger Evans on the other end. He'll need to do the same to hang with Billups, who is averaging 19.4 ppg and 5.3 apg while continuing to score efficiently (58.1 TS%).
Up North. Check out upnorthfan's take on the matchup in the fanposts.