The Milwaukee Bucks (11-11) are set to host the Lakers (18-4) for the only time this season, and as an Eastern Conference team that isn’t necessarily a potential Finals opponent for L.A., they’re not at the top of the purple and gold radar screen.
But they’re also not a bad team; particularly at home, the Bucks can play basketball. They’ve lost only three times in 12 games at the Bradley Center, and as L.A.’s coaching staff insisted, can certainly beat the Lakers if a full effort isn’t exerted.
Let’s take a closer look at Milwaukee:
Watch the First Quarter
When the Bucks go into the second quarter with a lead at home, they’re 6-1, including wins over Denver and Portland. Andrew Bogut, perhaps the key to Milwaukee’s success, has played in five of those seven games, averaging 20.8 points and 10.2 rebounds.
Everyone heard about 10th overall draft pick Brandon Jennings’s 55-point outburst at home against Golden State on Nov. 14, as well as his escapades playing professionally in Italy after high school instead of going to college. But how’s he done lately? Pretty well. In his last five, Jennings is averaging 19.2 points, 6.6 assists, 3.6 assists per game. At the same time, Jennings has needed 18.4 shots per game to get to his 19.2 points due to 40.2 percent shooting from the field, not the most efficient of shooting numbers.
The Bucks start four international players, one each from Australia (Bogut), Turkey (Ersan Ilyasova), Cameroon (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute) and Argentina (Carlos Delfino), and each has been productive this season. Bogut’s been terrific in his last three games, putting up 21.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists and 1.7 blocks, and Ilyasova’s averaged 15.7 points plus 8.3 boards, 1.3 steals and 1.0 assists while shooting 50 percent from three-point land. Delfino has struggled with his shot (39.2 percent field goals), but still provides 10.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 28 minutes per night.
Head Coach Scott Skiles is known for getting/demanding defensive effort out of his players, and his Bucks have been forcing an average of 16.9 turnovers per game, which ranks second in the NBA. Of course, it’s important to convert those turnovers into points at the other end, and Milwaukee’s succeeded in that facet as well, scoring 18.3 points off turnovers to rank third in the NBA.
Throwing up Triples
Milwaukee likes to shoot threes. In fact, they average 8.4 three-point makes per game, which has them on pace to make 686 on the season to shatter the club record of 595 set in 2001-02. And remember, this is a franchise that featured gunners Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Michael Redd, who’s still on the team but has played in only six games this season as he attempts to recover from knee surgery.
Milwaukee’s Best on Reserve
OK, stole that title from Milwaukee’s PR staff, as it’s always fun to name things after cheap brew. Alas, we’re referring to Luke Ridnour, who has been one of the NBA’s better bench players this season, ranking in the top 10 in five categories including assist-to-turnover ratio (3.43 to 1), where he leads all pine sitters. He also has 35 points in his last 37 minutes, and will demand attention from Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.