Central. The Central Division is all for Cleveland, and after that everyone looks about the same: not bad, not consistent, not good. The Bucks are clinging to second place, half a game in front of Detroit, a game ahead of Chicago, and leading tonight's opponent by just two games.
Translation: As exciting as all the recent losing has been (and it has been, I am so sincere), it is time to scrap that, lest the Bucks want to end up in the all-too-familiar last place in the division. The Pacers were really good at home last season (25-16), but they have started a precisely mediocre 6-6 at Conseco. Not like a 1-11 road team coming into your place, but a winnable game anyway. Especially as Danny Granger (foot) remains out for the Pacers. Drop this one, and the Bucks are a game from last place -- not cool.
Last-second losses. You know about the Bucks' latest loss, but both teams are coming off last-second losses.
And with that in mind, here's your pregame stat of the night: The Pacers have the worst defensive field goal percentage after 21+ seconds on the shot clock. They allow opponents to shoot 51.3 eFG% with three or fewer seconds on the shot clock, and that is bad, let me tell you. On the other end of the extreme, the Lakers allow 34.8 eFG% at 21+.
The Pacers switched things up a bit against the Spurs on Saturday, starting Earl Watson and Dahntay Jones in the backcourt. And they came within a point of winning. Indy fell 100-99 after being outscored 30-16 in the fourth quarter. Old friend T.J. Ford missed a game-winning fadeaway attempt at the buzzer.
Bogut. We expect inconsistency from Jennings (who, by the way, has scored in double figures in every game this season except when he scored 9 in the third game of the year, against Minny)
And it would be generous to call Michael Redd inconsistent this season.
But Bogut? We need more than this, if the Bucks have designs on staying around .500. After his monster first game back from injury against the Bulls, he reeled off three straight bad ones. Then, three big ones against Boston, Toronto, and Portland. But since then he has struggled in games against the Lakers (6-16 shooting), Cavaliers (2-7), and Kings (6-20). That's coincided with some rough shooting nights for Jennings (4-11, 5-21, 4-11), so the three-game losing streak shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Andrew's current field goal percentage (49.6) is the lowest of his career.
Update: From Jim Paschke comes news that Michael Redd will be back in the starting lineup tonight, despite his struggles the last two games off the bench. Skiles last started Redd against OKC on November 27, hoping that Redd's problems then were somehow related to the now-unfamiliar position of being a sixth man. It didn't work in OKC, as Redd struggled again and then sat out seven games to further rest his bum knee. Redd certainly hasn't earned the spot back, but Skiles clearly feels the need to do something to give the Bucks a shot in the arm.