Friday, December 11, 2009

Trail Blazers at Bucks: Game 25

One of the surprise teams this year so far has to be the 10-11 Bucks, who are very deadly at home, as they are owners of an 8-3 record at the Bradley Center. Obviously a big reason to their revival has been the health of Andrew Bogut and the phenomenal play of rookie Brandon Jennings, who is putting up 21.2 ppg, 5.7 apg, and 3.8 rpg. The 14-10 Trail Blazers come into the last game of their 4 game road trip desperately needing a win to not only come away with a split on the trip but to stay afloat for the last two playoff spots.
If there is a chink in the Bucks armor the Trail Blazers can expose, it is Milwaukee's efficiency shooting the ball, as they are the 5th worst team in the NBA by shooting a porous 43.8% from the field. But, Portland better be careful of guarding that 3 point line, as Milwaukee is 5th best in the league from downtown a 37.7%. The Bucks have 4 players who shot it better than 35% from deep in Brandon Jennings(43.9%), Luke Ridnour(39.2%), Carlos Delfino(37.2%), and Ersan Ilyasova(35.1%). On the plus side for Portland, outside of Bogut, the Bucks possess no one who should be a threat to get points in the paint, which has been a thorn in the side of this Blazer defense. To limit the 3's from raining down all night and still controlling the paint, Portland needs to not take bad, quick shots on offense which can lead to fast break points and limit the turnovers. Also, do not send the double team down on Bogut, unless he shows an inability to pass out of the double team or is scoring at will in the post and we have no other choice.
It will be very interesting to see who Scott Skiles decides to put on Roy and Aldridge. By checking out their most recent starting lineup, it would seem that the 6-10 235 lb. Ersan Ilyasova will get the call on Aldridge which is exactly where Portland should look to attack all game long just as they did in the 1st quarter of the Indiana game. If Aldridge were smart, he would back him down, turn the shoulder, and drive to the middle of the hoop, which nearly always ends in a foul on the defender and sometimes an And 1. Like Portland, Milwaukee is not a deep team at all, so if you can take Ersan out of the game, LMA should be able to continue feasting on Dan Gadzuric or Kurt Thomas. The bigger question is will Luc Richard Mbah a Moute get the defensive assignment on Brandon Roy. If you haven't caught many Bucks games, a great comparison is that he is their version of Nicolas Batum. A young, long small forward who is capable of being a game changer on the defensive end of the floor. If indeed that is the matchup, then Portland needs to run Roy off of the ball to get him loose and tiring Luc in the process. Another way to get Roy rolling are simple give and go's. Roy gives up the ball, runs Luc off of a back pick and receives the pass for a simple bucket. All I ask is that the one on one play is at a minimum. The more ball movement/player movement we have, the more efficient the offense will run.
Just like the key to defeating the Cavs is to contain LeBron, well the same applies to the Bucks and Jennings. Scouts are already dubbing him the next Allen Iverson and he has already put up over 50 once this season. If there is one game to let loose Jerryd Bayless, this is the game. He is the only player on our team who has the quickness to stay in front of him. Another way to slow him down is to make him work on the defensive end. When Andre is in the game as the sole point guard, he needs to take Jennings down to the post and back him down. Although he is young and will have fresh legs, as Milwaukee hasn't played since Wednesday, it will hinder his offensive performance is Dre is down low initiating body shots to his torso.
If history tells us anything, it's the fact this game will be close and go down to the wire. Since the beginning of the decade (2000-2001), there have been 9 battles between these two teams at the Bradley Center with Portland winning 6 and Milwaukee taking 3. The average margin of victory has been only 7.5 points and would be even closer expect for one outlier in the 02-03 season where the Bucks won by 22 points. I fully believe tonight will not be any different. It will be a game where both teams make runs but will come down to the final minutes of the game. In the end, Portland will ride Aldridge to another heart stopping victory in Milwaukee and come away with a split on the trip.
Game 25 Prediction: Trail Blazers 97 Bucks 95
Post-Game Thoughts
If one game sums up how this season has gone so far, it was last night against Milwaukee. Portland fought with everything they had and looked to be in control as a Carlos Delfino miss was battled for under the rim and went out of bounds. It was originally called Blazer ball, but after looking at the review, the officials switched it to Milwaukee, even though replay showed no conclusive evidence at all that it went off of Portland. If they are going to overturn the original call on the floor (Portland Ball), then there must be indisputable evidence. Having something taken away from you, a win, after you have watched your team scrap and claw there way back from a 13 point deficit in the 3rd quarter really was difficult to deal with.
The loss of Greg Oden was very apparent in last night's game. As good of a defender that Joel is, he just does not possess the brute strength and size of Oden which could have been a bigger factor against Andrew Bogut. Bogut was the Bucks' money man tonight, as he was unstoppable on the blocks to the tune of 27 points, on 12-19 shootings, and grabbed 9 rebounds. Although he has had to deal with his fair share of injuries, Bogut showed why he was taken #1 in the 2005 draft.
I realize the boys were tired, but we were lucky to even be in the game by shooting a combined 40% from the field. One of the main reasons I have been calling for Dante and Jerryd to play more minutes is to take some of the burden off of the other 7 players so they don't get fatigued. Our guards in particular, Miller, Blake, an Roy, shot a combined 13-46 for an ice cold 28.2%. Roy hit the difficult game tying shot when it mattered at the end of regulation, but each player had a chance to make a momentum shot, only to see it hit the iron unkind. The coaching staff needs to find a way to get Brandon easier shots and maybe trim him minutes just a tad, because his shooting percentage has been awful these past two games, a combined 17-49 for 34.5%, and I would bet it is due to being exhausted.
Even in the losses, I am trying to take out something positive the team can build upon for the 2010-2011 season and last night it was the L-Train. LaMarcus played one of the guttiest performances I have seen from him, and when he scored those 6 straight fast break dunks in the first overtime, I thought we had it wrapped and in the bag. The biggest reason I want to see this team run is to take advantage of having the quickest and fastest power forward in the game on our team. LaMarcus, with his long stride, runs like a Gazelle and is always looking to finish strong. Aldridge had a team-high 31 points, 13-22 shooting, 11 rebounds, and played 52 minutes. Most impressive about his numbers were his game-high 5 offensive rebounds and the ball wasn't just falling into his lap. He looked like a man possessed last night on the glass, going for anything and everything in his vicinity. Hopefully, the L-Train is starting his post-All-Star streak of torrid play a little earlier than usual this season.
Box Score

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