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Heat vs. Bucks Preview: Milwaukee Hoping For Improbable Season Sweep of LeBron & Co.

2011/2012 NBA Season

12-15 (7-5 home) 21-7 (9-5 road)
February 13, 2012
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
7:00 PM CT
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Brandon Jennings PG Mario Chalmers
Shaun Livingston SG Dwyane Wade
Carlos Delfino SF LeBron James
Luc Mbah a Moute PF Chris Bosh
Drew Gooden C Joel Anthony

(16th) 102.9 - OFFENSE - 108.2 (3rd)
(19th) 104.0 - DEFENSE - 100.3 (10th)
(11th) 92.4 - PACE - 93.3 (5th)

On the Heat: Hot Hot Hoops / Peninsula is Mightier / ESPN Heat Index / South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Twelve days after shocking the Heat for the second time this season, the Bucks host Miami again with the hope of pulling off an improbable three-game season sweep of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Heat check. Miami has won 13 of their last 16 games, including a comfortable 107-87 win in Atlanta on Sunday. The funny/weird part is of course that two of those three losses have come to the Bucks, who are 2-0 against the Heat and 10-15 against everyone else. Miami's only other loss in that span came against their upstate rivals in Orlando, who also knocked off the Bucks on Saturday behind Jason Richardson's three point deluge (9/11 from deep). Meanwhile, the Bucks have largely been treading water over the past few weeks, offsetting big wins (two wins over the Heat, road win over the Rockets, home win over the Lakers) with disappointing performances (road losses in Detroit, home loss to Phoenix, blowing a late double-digit lead to Orlando) and off-court distractions.

After dropping 24 first quarter points and 40 in total against the Bucks in Milwaukee two weeks ago, LeBron has dropped off a fair bit from his usual stratospheric standards, hitting just 1/10 threes over the past six games and scoring a measly 21.8 ppg in that span. In spite of that, for the season he's still putting up career-best shooting splits of 53.8% from the field, 36.7% from deep, and 61.3% in true shooting terms. Meanwhile, Wade is averaging 26.2 ppg on 58% shooting over the last five games, though his assists (3.8 apg) and rebounds (3.2 rpg) are down over that span.

Three lives to live. Shaun Livingston buried a corner three on Saturday night, which is kind of a big deal when you consider that coming into the game he had been 1/11 in the last five years from three point range. Livingston also took (and badly short-armed) a long corner two in Cleveland on Friday, and judging by the lack of hesitation he showed in taking his triple against Orlando, this could be something he's trying to do more proactively. It also wouldn't be the first time that Scott Skiles has encouraged someone to start taking shots they haven't previously been comfortable with--see Skiles' encouraging Drew Gooden to shoot more threes and Andrew Bogut to shoot more jump shots.

Gooden plenty. Love him or hate him, it's tough to expect more from Drew Gooden at the moment. Over his last five games, Gooden is averaging 21.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.2 apg and 1.2 bpg on 49.4% shooting, and he's even provided some good minutes defensively of late. Gooden held his own on the block against Dwight Howard on Saturday and made a number of key plays defensively in Friday's OT win over Cleveland, including a late charge on Daniel Gibson and a strip on Tristan Thompson late in regulation (also worth noting: he appeared to be the guy who fractured Andy Varejao's wrist). More rebounding would be nice, but in the grand scheme of things Gooden is probably the least of the Bucks' problems right now.

Is he Andrew Bogut? No, of course not. But he's also been the Bucks' most stable offensive contributor since Bogut went down, and he deserves a big chunk of the credit for the Bucks' solid 6-5 record in Bogut's absence. Wait, did I just refer to Drew Gooden as stable?