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Bobcats vs. Bucks Preview: Less drama, more basketball, please

Having put a tough stretch behind them, the Bucks start April with a pair of rather winnable home games against the Bobcats and Timberwolves. And with just 10 games left and two games behind the Celtics in the loss column, Milwaukee still has a shot at moving up in the East--if their schedule and potential internal strife don't stop them first.

Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

2012/2013 NBA Season
(35-37, 19-18 home)
(17-56, 6-31 road)
April 1, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Brandon Jennings PG Kemba Walker
Monta Ellis SG Gerald Henderson
Marquis Daniels SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Ersan Ilyasova PF Josh McRoberts
Larry Sanders C Bismack Biyombo
2012/13 Advanced Stats
94.5 (4th) Pace 91.5 (17th)
103.8 (21st) ORtg 101.4 (28th)
105.4 (12th) DRtg 111.0 (30th)

On the Bobcats: Rufus On Fire | Queen City Hoops | Bobcats Baseline

As the Bucks turn. Brandon Jennings didn't fare too well against Russell Westbrook on Saturday night--he's hardly the only one to have suffered that fate--but he still played 38 minutes despite hitting just 3/13 shots and finishing with eight points and four assists compared to Westbrook's 23-14-10 triple-double. He also took a shot at his coach via Twitter shortly after the game, mocking Boylan's decision to call a timeout in the final minute when the Thunder were up 10 points. That tweet and apparently others (unconfirmed) were deleted shortly thereafter, but either way it seems obvious Jennings is still smarting over Boylan's willingness to bench him when he's playing poorly (shock! horror!). I give Boylan credit for showing less tolerance for Jennings' defensive lapses than Scott Skiles, but that doesn't mean this will all end happily.

Honestly I have no idea where Jennings' head is at these days, but it would seem obvious that any hopes the Bucks have of making the next month interesting rest on him playing vaguely respectable basketball (and his 25% shooting over the last five games doesn't count as such). And given the Bucks' decision not to move Jennings at the deadline, they seem to have backed themselves into a corner this summer. Plenty can happen between now and July, but it wouldn't be shocking if Jennings tries to go nuclear with his desires to get the hell out of Wisconsin, just as it wouldn't be shocking if Jennings quiets down in the hopes of getting a big offer from the Bucks. It's not like Boylan is a shoe-in to be around next season anyway, though it's also not as if Jennings is giving the Bucks--or any other team--much to feel excited about if they do give him a big deal this summer. Maybe that's part of his plan, maybe it's not. In other news, welcome to being a Milwaukee Bucks fan!

Playoff update. As usual, Steve has all the details. Bottom line: the Bucks face an uphill battle to catch the 7th seeded Celtics.

Bobs update. At one point this season the Bobcats were 7-5, including a home win over the Bucks back in November. But since then they've racked up a league-worst 10-51 record, which makes their 3-4 record over the past seven games appear encouraging in comparison. Not that most Bobcats fans really want a long winning streak to end the season--they're currently in poll position for the league's worst record for the second straight season, two games "ahead" of the Magic in that department.

With Brendan Haywood and DeSagana Diop out and Bucks killer Byron Mullens (ankle) questionable for tonight's game, 2011 lottery pick Bismack Biyombo and Josh McRoberts are the most likely bets to start at the big spots because, well, they're basically the only bigs the Bobcats have left. Hakim Warrick is nominally on the roster, but Jeff Adrien (all 6'6" of him) is the only other "big" guy who's seen minutes in recent games. In other words, the Bucks shouldn't lose this game in the paint.

In the backcourt, Kemba Walker is basically putting up numbers very similar to what Jennings did last year, while RFA-to-be Gerald Henderson has caught fire of late: 20.1 ppg in March and 29.3 over his last three. Containing those guys is job one for the Bucks tonight, though the fact that Jennings and Ellis have the primary containment responsibility means pretty much anything could happen.

Ersanity. With all the hand-wringing over Jennings and the up-and-down performance of Ellis, it's easy to lose sight of Ersan Ilyasova's return to relative brilliance. Ilyasova has averaged 18.0 ppg and 8.9 rpg on 58.9% true shooting over the past 29 games and 20.2 ppg and 11.4 rpg over his last five. And while the Bucks' backcourt could be history in a couple months, the froncourt pairing of Ilyasova and Sanders has been damn good all season. In 964 minutes together, Bucks lineups with Sanders and Ilyasova have averaged 105.2 pts/100 possessions while surrendering just 101.1. That's damn good.