The Bucks look to win consecutive games for the first time since late January whey they host the league-worst Cleveland Cavaliers at the Bradley Center.
Starting Changeup. On January 21 the Bucks extended the Cavs losing streak to 15 games with a starting lineup that featured Keyon Dooling, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Corey Maggette, Ersan Ilyasova, and Andrew Bogut. But only Bogut is expected to feature among the starters tonight as the Bucks have reverted back to the lineup they used down the stretch a year ago. No word yet on the injured Maggette (sore right knee) and Ilyasova (concussion), but I wouldn't hold your breath.
Defense doesn't always win championships. The Bucks remain on the outside of the playoff race despite ranking 4th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, which is by no means typical. They're the only team currently ranked in the top 14 defensively not in a playoff spot, and you have to go back to Charlotte in 2008 to find another team which ranked in the top 14 defensively and failed to qualify for the postseason. The Bobs finished 7th in defensive efficiency that year but just 10th in the East that season.
Baron-less. While the Bucks are coping with their usual rash of injuries, the Cavs will be without recent acquisition Baron Davis, who flew home to attend the funeral of his grandmother.
Bogut's O. Andrew Bogut has cracked the 20-point barrier just twice since mid-December, first in the January game against Cleveland (11/14 fg, 23 pts) and then a week later against the Raptors in Toronto (12/14 fg, 24 pts). Bogut has historically struggled against the Cavs, but Cleveland has become rather small and inexperienced up front with Anderson Varejao on the shelf for the rest of the season and Zydrunas Ilgauskas now plying his trade in Miami.
Rookie Samardo Samuels (6'9" / 260) is expected to start in the middle for Cleveland, so expect the Bucks to test him early and often against Bogut. Though he lacks prototypical length for a center, Samuels has acquitted himself well of late, scoring in double figures in five straight games and averaging 15.0 ppg and 8.3 rpg in four games this month.
Speaking of Bogut, the Bucks seemed to make a concerted effort to feature his passing from the top of key in Washington, as the big man found Salmons, Delfino, and Jennings for easy buckets off backdoor passes on his way to a season-high seven assists. It was a bit reminiscent of what we saw from Bogut early in his career under Terry Stotts, and given his inconsistency in the post it's probably something the Bucks should try more often.
Jennings warming? I spent much of the last month complaining about Brandon Jennings, so I'm happy to finally report some encouraging signs. In four games this month--I know, sample size, sample size--Jennings is averaging 20.8 ppg on 41.3% shooting. Bad if you're Steve Nash, great if you're Brandon Jennings. And if he keeps it up this would be the first full month that he cracks 40% since the halcyon days of November 2009...ah yes, what a time it was.