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Bucks vs. Lakers Preview | John Henson out, Pau Gasol expected back as Bucks and Lakers tangle in LA

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
2012/2013 NBA Season
(13-18, 7-8 home)
(6-24, 3-12 road)
December 31, 2013
Staples Center | Los Angeles, CA
9:30 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Jordan Farmar PG Brandon Knight
Jodie Meeks SG Luke Ridnour
Wesley Johnson SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Jordan Hill PF Ersan Ilyasova
Pau Gasol C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
96.9 (3rd) Pace 91.7 (26th)
102.8 (22nd) ORtg 98.7 (30th)
107.0 (20th) DRtg 107.5 (23rd)

On the LakersSilver Screen and RollForum Blue and Gold

UPDATE: For some reason this is happening:

Middleton has played as well as any Buck of late, so it's certainly a bit, uh, counterintuitive.

Lakers update. The Bucks may be a bad basketball team, but the Lakers...well, the Lakers are just generally a mess right now.  Kobe Bryant is probably out another month, Pau Gasol has struggled through injuries and scoring struggles, L.A. has lost about 400 point guards and counting to injuries (OK, Steve Nash and Steve Blake), and they've now lost five in a row including consecutive games to the Jazz and Sixers. All of that has dropped them five games out of the West's final playoff spot with four teams ahead of them in the race to catch the 8th seeded Mavericks.

That sort of thing doesn't go over well in Lakerland of course, not after missing the playoffs just once in the last 18 seasons. Alas, the tyranny of high expectations! The interesting part is that the Lakers should probably be even worse--seriously, look at their roster and the injuries they've been dealt--and in the grand scheme of things that might be in their best interests anyway. Aside from Kobe and Pau, this is basically a roster of has-beens (OK, maybe this applies to Pau as well), journeymen and former lottery busts (Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Kendall Marshall), with only the freshly-extended Kobe, Nash, Nick Young and Robert Sacre guaranteed past this season. That's partially by accident (goodbye Dwight Howard!) and partially by design (to save cap money for next summer).

LA Story. The Lakers' mediocre record shines through in their middling four factors: they rank between 13th and 26th in each of the four offensive categories (eFG%, TO rate, OReb% and FT/FGA), and defensively rank better than 12th in only free throw rate (7th). Like any Mike D'Antoni team they play fast, but other than that they're kind of like a slightly better version of the Bucks--not really good at anything, terrible on the defensive boards (29th vs. Milwaukee's 30th) and otherwise just sort of...there.

Go West, young Bucks. Speaking of just sort of being there: your 13/14 Milwaukee Bucks! Milwaukee kicks off its first Western road trip of the season with a modest three-game swing through L.A., Utah and Phoenix on Tuesday, followed by a home date with the Warriors on January 7.  Your roadtrip in a nutshell, 1) the 13-18 Lakers are banged up and struggling mightily 2) the young Jazz have gone 9-11 since starting a miserable 1-13, owing in no small part to the promising start of rookie point guard Trey Burke and 3) the Suns continue to stun everyone with a 19-11 record, including a surprising blowout road win over the Clippers on Monday night. As far as Western swings go, this isn't exactly a murderer's row. But there's also no such thing as an easy win when you're the worst team in the league, even if the Bucks are trying to put on a brave face about it all. Via Andrew Gruman:

"I'm a firm believer in if you are going to get well, what better way to get well than being out on the road," Drew said. "You are a little bit more isolated there from the distractions here at home. That's how we're going to approach it."

Bigs playing small. For those concerned that the return of Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova might help the Bucks start winning games...well, not so much. Sanders hasn't been bad, but Ilyasova's 4/21 shooting over the past two games has only further cratered his horrendous shooting numbers to 36% from the field and 18% from three.  Yikes.

Speaking of big men, John Henson (ankle) is unfortunately not with the team on the current trip, meaning the Bucks will continue to lean on both Sanders and Ilyasova in the near term. And they might as well--regardless of how you feel about them as long term fits in Milwaukee, they're not going to be any more tradeable while rotting on the bench.

Henson's injury struck just as he was playing the best basketball of his young career--fitting of the Bucks' season I suppose--and his return date remains up in the air. While Henson is hoping to be back for the Warriors game a week from now, he could be out longer with what the team is calling a high ankle sprain. Andrew Gruman reports:

Bucks coach Larry Drew says the big man will be out "at least a couple of weeks," but Henson is hopeful he'll be able to return shortly after the team returns from the trip on Jan. 6.

"It's a high-ankle sprain, so I want to stay off of it as much as possible to help it heal," Henson said. "I'll be doing treatment twice a day, working out and doing conditioning. Hopefully this week where I don't go with them will help me come back sooner than later."