UPDATE: DeMarcus Cousins has been officially ruled out of tonight's game.
Fresh off their most comprehensive win of the season, the Milwaukee Bucks have a chance to head into Thanksgiving on a high -- provided they can take care of business against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. And while the Kings are by no means push-overs, they may be playing with a major handicap: franchise big man DeMarcus Cousins is listed as doubtful with a strained back.
The injury forced Cousins to miss overtime of Monday's 127-122 loss in Charlotte, though not before he scored 30 points and grabbed 11 boards in just 30 minutes. How big of a deal would Cousins' absence be? Pretty damn big: Sacramento is 5-5 when Cousins plays and 0-5 when he doesn't.
After three road floggings, the Bucks let off some steam in Monday's 109-88 thumping of the Pistons. Detroit's lack of depth and shooting was fully exposed in the middle two quarters, as Jason Kidd's men blew the game wide open and in the process exorcised some of their recent second half demons.
While the Bucks' overall pace and transition scoring (11) were nothing special, they did play with a greater sense of purpose in getting the ball up court more quickly. Our Eric Nehm focused on that in his weekly Milwaukee Magazine piece this week, reporting that Kidd is looking for MCW to get the ball into the frontcourt with 21 seconds or more on the shot clock:
Pushing the tempo is an easy way to get teammates involved and put pressure on the defense. This is especially important for the Bucks who have one of the league's most dangerous weapons in transition, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is currently scoring in the league's 89th percentile on transition opportunities (1.39 points per transition possession).
"First, I'm looking for open teammates," says Carter-Williams. "If they're running the lanes, kick it ahead to them, so if they have a driving lane they can get to the hoop. If they're not open, I'm looking to attack, get in the paint and create help. If (defenders) don't help, finish. If I have nothing, I can always pull it out and run a play."
That figures to be especially relevant tonight against a Kings team that loves to run and concedes 15.9 transition points per game (27th). The Bucks are 25th in the NBA with just 10.3 transition points per game thus far, well off the 14.9 points per game they averaged a year ago. Forcing fewer turnovers and struggling mightily to grab defensive rebounds is no doubt a big part of that story, though the Bucks have also seen the numbers move against them on the other end, where they've slid from 2nd (10.8) to 22nd (14.4) in transition points allowed.
Kings Scouting Report
George Karl's Kings perhaps predictably play at the league's fastest pace, while scoring the third most transition points per game (17.1). That's where the superlatives mostly end however. They've been a dangerous team from deep so far (38%, 5th), but overall rank in the league's bottom ten both offensively and defensively. On the bright side, Rajon Rondo has enjoyed a statistical resurgence since landing in California, threatening triple-doubles nightly with 12.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.6 rebounds per game. Then again, he also turns the ball over 4.0 times per game, a big reason why the Kings are 28th in turnover rate -- something the Bucks will look to take advantage of tonight.
Assuming DMC is out, Karl may stay big with Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein, a lineup that would clog the paint but likely create plenty of second chance opportunities. That would put major pressure offensively on Rudy Gay, who just returned from a shoulder strain against Charlotte. While most of Gay's numbers have slid a bit since his career year last season, he's still good for 18 points a night, rebounding at a career-best clip and has been great from the corners (60% threes, 29% of his three attempts). Should be a fun matchup between him and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks have been pushing the pace. I talked with Kidd and MCW about it, so I could explain their thought process. https://t.co/56FBcbGtug— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) November 25, 2015
Happy Thanksgiving in advance. Jabari is clearly acting in the spirit of thanks. https://t.co/V5NgMEQtlI— Jim Paschke (@Paschketball) November 25, 2015
My thoughts on Pacers-Wiz are best summed up in point No. 1 from today's Likes/Dislikes: https://t.co/fTptomqFRd— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) November 25, 2015
"They just want me to play." - Damien Inglis on what the Bucks want from his trip to D-League. Debut tonight. https://t.co/Y2xA0oRx4t— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) November 25, 2015
On the Kings: Sactown Royalty | Cowbell Kingdom | A Royal Pain
|2015/16 NBA Season|
|November 25, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Michael Carter-Williams||PG||Rajon Rondo|
|Khris Middleton||SG||Ben McLemore|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||Rudy Gay|
|Jabari Parker||PF||Willie Cauley-Stein|
|Greg Monroe||C||Kosta Koufos|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|91.9 (30th)||Pace||100.8 (1st)|
|104.0 (15th)||ORtg||102.9 (20th)|
|111.4 (30th)||DRtg||106.7 (22nd)|