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Bucks vs. Bulls Game Thread: With Larry Sanders sick, Dalembert will start

The Milwaukee Bucks face the Chicago Bulls for the fourth time this season, currently holding a 2-1 advantage. Both teams are hitting their stride as we close in on the All-Star Break, making this a showdown to DVR, if not watch.

Jonathan Daniel

2012/2013 NBA Season

(27-17, 12-6 road)
(24-19, 12-9 home)
January 30, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Kirk Hinrich PG Brandon Jennings
Richard Hamilton SG Monta Ellis
Luol Deng SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Carlos Boozer PF Ersan Ilyasova
Joakim Noah C Larry Sanders Samuel Dalembert
2012/13 Advanced Stats
89.5 (26th) Pace 94.4 (5th)
103.3 (21st) ORtg 103.4 (20th)
100.6 (3rd) DRtg 103.3 (8th)

On the Bulls: Blog A Bull | Bulls By The Horns | Pippen Ain't Easy

Bulls update. After hovering around the .500 mark for most of November, the Chicago Bulls have ripped off a 20-10 record from December to present, including a 7-2 run over their last nine tilts. Relying on coach Tom Thibodeau's predilection towards all-out defensive basketball as a necessary means for wearing down opponents, Chicago has quietly continued its three year rein as a power in the Eastern Conference. Without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah has turned in a career year, Carlos Boozer has fully embraced his increased offensive workload (and abused the Bucks in the process), and Luol Deng has continued to do his multifaceted Luol Deng stuff.

Perimeter defense from Marco Belinelli and sporadic scoring punches from the never muted Nate Robinson have headlined a completely revamped bench mob. Circling back, the Bulls are still one of the best teams in the East (however awful the conference may be) without their superstar point guard. If there's a better candidate for NBA Coach of the Year than Tom Thibodeau, I can't find him.

Bombs over Bucks. The Milwaukee Bucks are 2-1 against the Bulls this season, although that record could easily be flipped if not for a certain 27 point comeback. Still, Milwaukee has done an admirable job getting into the paint (60.5% in restricted area vs. Bulls, compared to 53% on the season) while keeping Chicago's exposure to paint fumes limited (47.5% in restricted area vs. Bucks, compared to 53.3% on the season). The Bucks have not shot particularly well from beyond the arc against the Bulls (29.6% 3fg), but that's due as much to Chicago's top ranked perimeter defense as it is to Milwaukee's own inconsistencies. It'll be interesting to see how the Bucks' recent hot streak from downtown (23 three point attempts, 44.3% 3fg in last five games) translates against a team built on preventing three point shots (15.9 allowed per game) and forcing teams into the no-man's land of 16-23 feet.

A familiar face returns to the BMO Harris Bradley Center. No player has stepped up his game for the Bulls more recently than Jimmy Butler. Butler slid effortlessly into Deng's starting small forward spot when the former Duke Blue Devil was dealing with a strained hamstring, averaging 14.2 points (44% fg, 22% 3fg, 96% ft), 8.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and using his length to stifle opponent perimeter attacks over a five game span. Butler returned to his bench role Monday, to sparkling results (a career high 19 points on 7-10 shots to go with 6 rebounds). A sensible basketball mind would say six games make not an NBA player, and my own cold rationality is conditioned to reject the impending softball stories that will be written about Butler's emergence after tonight. With that said, Butler's back story makes it very easy to enjoy watching him succeed.

Something to think about. In the ESPN preview for this game, they note the following about Brandon Jennings (emphasis mine):

Jennings shot 11 of 19 against the Pistons and is averaging 23.8 points over his last five games. The Bucks have gone 21-6 when he makes more than 36 percent of his shots compared to 3-12 when he doesn't.

Two things jump out from this blurb. One, 36% shooting is an incredibly low bar set for a better chance of victory. Two, Jennings has hit fewer than 36% of his shots in almost 40% of the Bucks' games this season. Anyone who watches Milwaukee games knows the team goes as Jennings goes, but it might be smart to bury these stats when arguing about his viability as an All-Star replacement for Rajon Rondo.

Injury Updates: Larry Sanders is sick, so Samuel Dalembert will start in his place. Carlos Boozer (hamstring) is a game-time decision.