On the Jazz:
Three weeks after losing in Utah, the Bucks return home to face Deron Williams and the Jazz after an encouraging road split in Dallas and San Antonio.
Rematch. On November 29, the depleted Bucks hung with the Jazz for three quarters before ultimately getting run out of Salt Lake City 109-88. Playing without Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden, and Corey Maggette, the Bucks were crushed on the boards (17 defensive rebounds vs. 16 Utah offensive boards), helping Utah dominate 54-18 in the paint as Al Jefferson led the way with 22 on just 14 shots.
While you'd expect the Jazz to beat the Bucks in Utah, it was in some ways a rather uncharacteristic effort from both teams. Despite their struggles in Utah, the Bucks currently lead the NBA in defensive rebound rate 78.6% and allow the third in fewest points in the paint allowed/game. Then again, those numbers have a lot to do with Bogut's defensive dominance, so it's hard to expect the same when he's hurt. Moreover, Utah's been a below-average team on both the offensive (21st) and defensive glass (28th)--look no further than the Hornets' 53-24 rebounding domination in their 29-point win over Utah last night.
Salmons uncertain. John Salmons participated in light drills on Friday, but his achy back may not be ready in time for tonight's tilt at the BC. Charles Gardner caught up with Scott Skiles on the topic:
"He did a couple things early on, but then that was it," coach Scott Skiles said. "We pulled him out."
Skiles opted to start Keyon Dooling in Salmons' absence in San Antonio, though Skiles perhaps predictably reverted to a Luc Mbah a Moute/CD-R combination down the stretch. The starting five of Jennings / Dooling / CD-R / Ilyasova and Bogut was -7 starting the first quarter and -6 late in the second, so you can't blame him either.
CD-R stepping up. While technically it was Dooling starting in Salmons' stead in San Antonio, we all know the bigger discussion of late has been about CD-R getting more of the minutes (and touches) that have gone to the misfiring Salmons. The numbers make it seem like a no-brainer: CD-R has been infinitely more efficient (61.1% vs. 46.9% in true shooting terms) and scored more per 40 minutes (17.6 vs. 14.5 ppg) while also turning it over less and rebounding at a higher rate. But complicating matters is Salmons' longer resume and shiny new contract, both of which have contributed to Skiles' difficulty in applying a more meritocratic approach to the situation.
But it's also worth considering the clear differences in how both have been used. While Salmons has generally been treated like a go-to scoring option with isolation (25% of plays) and P&R action (18%), CD-R has been more of a flow-of-the-offense type. Against the Spurs, Milwaukee kept it fairly simple by letting him get out transition, giving him handoffs--on the wing or cutting past Bogut in the post--or just having him spot up in the corner. He didn't have to dominate the ball to get his 21 points on 15 shots; everything just seemed quick and decisive. Refreshing--and the kind of approach might help take some of the pressure off Salmons while making the Bucks' less dependent on a guy who's been struggling most of the year.
But while CD-R has made his name as a crafty slasher, the most refreshing aspect of his game has been his ability to ability to spot up and hit open jumpers, something the Bucks have been sorely lacking in Carlos Delfino's absence. According to Synergy, a whopping 43% of his plays and half of his made shots (15 of 30) have come on spot-ups, where he's been among the league's best with 1.31 points per play. Then again, last year he posted just 0.81 PPP in spot up situations, so it's very possible this is a sample size aberration. Hopefully it's not, because being able to play off the ball would make him that much more valuable.