On the Kings:
Following their surprising blowout win over the Lakers in Los Angeles, the Bucks look to avoid a letdown when they face the struggling Kings in Sacramento.
Strange Brew. The Bucks haven't been good on the road (4-10), but they have been plenty unpredictable. Following their shocking destruction of the Lakers on Tuesday, the Bucks have beaten the Mavs (23-5), Lakers (21-8), Hawks (19-12), and Pacers (13-14, but still above them in the playoff pecking order) while losing to such illustrious foes as the Wolves (6-24), Cavs (8-21), Pistons (10-19), and Sixers (11-18). Add it up and the Bucks are 4-6 on the road against teams currently in playoff position and 0-4 against teams outside their respective conference's top eight, which suggests the Bucks are in all sorts of trouble squaring off against the league-worst Kings (5-21).
The Fish. Is John Salmons turning the corner? I sure as heck hope so. Salmons' struggles have been one of the dominant storylines of the Bucks' season so far, but a second half scoring binge in Portland and a good all-around night against the Lakers offer some signs of encouragement. Salmons was 5/6 inside 10 feet against the Blazers, and while he made just 2/5 against L.A., we shouldn't ignore his 7/9 night from the stripe. He's only had one other game all season where he attempted more than six free throws (8/10 in Indiana), so I'll take it.
Cousins the Sub. The Kings' lineup will get another shakeup tonight following DeMarcus Cousins' latest act of idiocy. Cousins had started the previous nine games and has averaged a healthy-looking 13.8 ppg and 8.6 rpg so far this month, but he continues to show little discretion from the field, shooting just 43.2% this month and 41.6% for the season--not exactly what you'd like to see from an outrageously talented big man who is shooting over 71% at the rim. Then again, discretion has never been listed as one of his strengths. If scouts were convinced that he had even half a brain, he'd have likely been one of the top two picks in the draft, but instead the Kings (quite understandably) scooped him up at #5. It's not that anyone picked behind Cousins has done much of note, but you can only imagine how good he would (/will) be if (/when) he grows up.
King Bigs. Bucks fans should have been pleased to see perennial Bogut-stopper Sammy Dalembert dealt out west over the summer, but he's been struggling to find regular minutes of late in a crowded frontcourt that also features DeMarcus Cousins, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, and former Buck Darnell Jackson. But with Cousins benched and Jason Thompson dealing with a stitched up finger, Dalembert would seem to be in line for his first start since December 3.
Acquired in the Jon Brockman deal over the summer, Jackson has surprisingly started the past two games, though Landry has ended up playing more minutes each game off the bench. As for Brockman, he returns to face the Kings for the first time since the sign-and-trade that made him a Buck over the summer. No one can question Brockman's effort or willingness to do the dirty work, but so far he hasn't been doing the one thing he's supposed to be really good at: rebounding. Through 27 games, Brockman is grabbing a middling 13.6% of possible rebounds after a fantastic 18.7% as a rookie, and playing as an undersized center has only further highlighted his lack of length--at 6'7", he's undersized for a PF, let alone a center.
ROY oh boy. Tyreke Evans justifiably took home rookie of the year honors last year, but the second year leap Kings fans were hoping for simply hasn't materialized thus far. Evans has battled plantar fasciitis much of the season and his numbers have suffered across the board. Heck, even Brandon Jennings is shooting better than Evans thus far (.383/.273/.748 and 45.3% TS), which is saying something. Aside from the injuries, there's been some suggestion that Evans' predictability (he heavily favors his dominant right hand) has allowed defenses to gameplan him more effectively, and all the talk about Evans improving his jump shot over the summer hasn't lived up to the hype either. He's no doubt better than what he's shown thus far, but he'll first have to get back to where he was before the superstar talk can be restarted, and the nagging nature of plantar fasciitis may make that difficult any time soon.
Gooden getting there? Jeremy has a good piece over at Bucksketball on the diverging fortunes of the Bucks' two biggest offseason acquisitions, Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette. While it's nice having a big man with deep touch, I'm a bit concerned with Gooden's increasing reliance on jump-shooting, particularly given he's a savvy finisher (61% at the rim). Gooden's own issues with plantar fasciitis are likely a part of his increased interest in his jump shot, but like Evans it's anybody's guess if he'll get back to 100% this season. Either way, it's rather reassuring to see Gooden (and John Salmons) finding their way a bit after early season struggles. Maggette...well, not so much. Either way, Gooden will be on the sidelines tonight because of his foot, while Maggette is traveling with the team but also expected to miss out following his concussion last week.