Home is where the heart is...and for the Milwaukee Bucks, hopefully some wins, too.
The Bucks lost their sixth straight on the road Wednesday, dropping a scrappy 102-93 decision to the Warriors to close out a disappointing 0-4 Western trip. But hey, all road trips eventually come to an end, and after two days off to collect their thoughts they now have a critical three-game homestand starting tonight against John Wall and the Washington Wizards, aka the team they're chasing (or perhaps more accurately, stumbling after) for the fifth seed in the East.
Making the game even more special will be the retirement of Bob Dandridge's #10. It's been almost 22 years since the Bucks last retired a jersey -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's #33 -- so it's safe to say this is a big deal. A starter for the 1971 championship team, Dandridge is the franchise's all-time leader in minutes while ranking second in rebounds and fifth in scoring. Dandridge's former teammates Oscar Robertson and Jon McGlocklin will be part of the festivities, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recorded a video tribute for the occasion.
The Wiz were last seen holding off the Heat 99-97 in Washington last night, though they were this close to one of the biggest collapses in NBA history. The Wiz led by as many as 35 before the Heat's skeleton crew -- Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng were all out -- stormed back and actually had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds. Fortunately for Randy Wittman's bunch the potential game-winning three went awry, though they couldn't have been pleased allowing Michael Beasley and Shabazz Napier to help Miami finish the game on a 49-15 run.
Not that the Wizards' inconsistency is anything new. They're just 5-14 since their 29-13 start, allowing the Bucks to stay within striking distance despite Milwaukee's struggles since the all-star break. Wittman has spent a lot of time talking about his team's effort, though the reality is that their defense has remained respectable -- it's the offense which has largely gone off the rails. Since shooting 38% from deep in their fast start, Washington has dropped to 31% since then, numbers that closely parallel the Bucks' own drop off since the trade that sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix and brought Michael Carter-Wiliams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee to Milwaukee.
Neither Jared Dudley (knee) nor O.J. Mayo (hamstring) practiced on Friday, so it's quite likely that the Bucks will once again be without two of their primary perimeter threats. To help fill the void, Milwaukee added D-League swingman Chris Johnson on a 10-day contract, and it's possible he might be thrown straight into the fire given a) he can shoot a bit and b) the Bucks figure to be shorthanded on the wing tonight.
As for Washington, they'll be without Kris Humphries due to a groin injury.
UPDATE: Bradley Beal is a late scratch for "precautionary reasons." Otto Porter will replace him in the starting five.
Key Matchup: Bucks' bigs (and smalls) vs. Marcin Gortat and Nene
Few teams can match the size and skill of Gortat and Nene inside, and the Bucks certainly aren't one of them. They were reminded of that when the teams played in Washington early in the season, so Jason Kidd will have to decide how much he tries to match the Wizards with size -- ie Ersan starting and the possibility of some lineups with two of Zaza Pachulia, John Henson, and Miles Plumlee. Kidd has been loathe to run two bigs at once, but we saw it in Utah for brief stretches. Otherwise you'd expect to see the Bucks' usual diet of double-teaming and smallball, a tactic that has frequently led Wittman to bench one or both of his bigs late in games this season. Ironically, Washington had success going with Paul Pierce at the four next to Gortat last week against the Bulls, a tactic that Kidd used to great effect with Pierce last season in Brooklyn. Pierce also lit up the Bucks for 25 points in Milwaukee when these teams last met in November.
The other obvious matchup to watch is at point guard, where Michael Carter-Williams will hope to hold his own against all-star John Wall. The former first overall pick is scoring less (17.0 ppg) but passing more this season, leading the league in assists with a career-best 10.1 apg. Like MCW, Wall's three point shooting has become a major eyesore -- dropping from a career-best 35% last year to just 28% this year, including 2/22 since the all-star break.
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
(32-29, 17-11 home)
|March 7, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Michael Carter-Williams||PG||John Wall
|Khris Middleton||SG||Otto Porter|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||Paul Pierce
|94.1 (14th)||Pace||93.7 (17th)|
|102.9 (24th)||ORtg||104.2 (18th)|
|101.7 (2nd)||DRtg||103.5 (11th)|