Dream Shake / Houston Chronicle / Clutch Fans
With a daunting stretch of games against the West's best beginning next week, the Bucks will be looking for the third win of their four game homestand against the visiting Houston Rockets.
Milwaukee, we have a problem. While the Bucks continued their mastery of the Pacers on Wednesday, they've had no luck with the Rockets in recent years, losing 10 out of the last 11. That last loss was a particularly disheartening 127-99 thumper on February 17, but in many ways it was that day which turned around the Bucks' season. Earlier in the day news broke of the Bucks' fateful trade for John Salmons, inspiring a 22-8 finish and...well, you know the rest.
Failure to launch. Andrew Bogut's injury troubles have been a source of much frustration for Bucks fans, but you probably won't hear much sympathy from Rockets fans. While Bogut has struggled offensively, he continues to be an impact player defensively (league-leading/career-high 2.8 bpg) and a force on the glass (career-high 11.5 rpg) in nearly 35 mpg. In the grand scheme of things, I'm very much OK with that given the injury circumstances--especially when Bogut's hitting game-winners.
Meanwhile, Yao Ming missed all of last season with chronic foot troubles and has been on the shelf since November 10 with a bum ankle. There had been some talk of Yao returning to the lineup on the current road trip, but he didn't play in Detroit on Tuesday and will again be MIA tonight.
Miller brewing. In Yao's absence, Brad Miller has been coming off the bench to fill the role of high-skill, zero-mobility center, scoring a combined 43 points in last weekend's games against the Bulls and Grizzlies...and then going scoreless on 0/6 shooting in the Rockets' 97-83 win in Detroit. So yes, the good also comes with the bad: Miller didn't grab a single rebound in his return to Chicago and he was slow to challenge Derrick Rose's game-tying three at the regulation buzzer in P&R. Still, for a guy I referred to as a "rotting corpse" at least twice last year, he's acquitting himself rather well.
Miller has been coming off the bench and splitting time with the undersized Chuck Hayes, so on the surface the gameplan would seem to be obvious for the Bucks: get Bogut out in space against Miller and catching the ball deep against the smaller Hayes. A similar strategy looked good on paper against the Heat (with Big Z and Joel Anthony), but the good news is that the Heat rank among the league's best defenses and the Rockets among the worst. Look out folks, the Bucks could crack 90 points!
Lowry stepping up. Aaron Brooks' absence has meant big minutes for Kyle Lowry, and the former Memphis point has responded with averages of 18.5 ppg and 9.5 apg on .510/.579/.813 shooting over the past four games. A career 27% shooter from three, the 24-year-old has been connecting at a 37% clip thus far.
Life begins at 30? Luis Scola and John Salmons are both 30, and both re-signed for big dollars this summer. But while Salmons has struggled to recapture his game, Scola has reached new heights with a career-high 21.0 ppg and 8.8 rpg. I'm not sure Larry Sanders is quite ready to handle Scola's silky post moves, though Bogut has also struggled in the past to deal with Scola.
Rookie bigs. John Hammond's taken plenty of grief for coming up rather empty with his three 2010 second round picks, but that shouldn't distract from what appears to be another very good pick in the first round. David Thorpe had Sanders at #6 in his first 2010 "redraft" this week, though it'll be a while before we know exactly how good Sanders will be.
On the flip side, I was among the many people who liked Kentucky power forward Patrick Patterson going into the draft, but the supposedly "NBA ready" big man hasn't played a minute so far this season and has instead been toiling for the Rockets' D-League affiliate in Rio Grande. Plenty of time for Patterson to prove his worth, though the presence of Scola and 2009 lottery pick Jordan Hill are making it rather difficult to find playing time.