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Blazers/Bucks Pre-Thoughts

Hey remember when the Bucks beat Portland last month? Me neither!

Milwaukee comes into tonight struggling. Since defeating the Blazers in the Bradley Center, the Bucks have lost 9 of their last 13 games. Coming into tonight they have only won 4 of 17 road contests and are 2-5 against Western Conference opponents on the road. Add onto that they just got the devastating news that Michael Redd is done for the season after tearing his ACL and MCL in his left knee. Redd may only be averaging 11 points a game this season, but his sweet stroke and ability to put the ball in the hole will be missed a ton. Even if he isn’t at his top, defenses HAVE to gameplan and give Redd attention. On the year without Redd the Bucks are 9-8. Without him in the lineup, Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut’s life just got a lot tougher.  Milwaukee’s biggest problem is they are offensively challenged with inconsistencies surrounding who is going to score for them. We’ll talk about them in a second but after Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut, it’s question mark city for the Bucks. The only other scorers averaging double figures are Luke Ridnour (11.3), Ersan Ilyasova (10.9) and Hakim Warrick (10.6). All talented but none could be considered consistent with a straight face or loss of credibility.

Back to Jennings and Bogut, containing them is a major part of whether or not Portland comes out with a W tonight. If you forgot, both had monster games against Portland last month. The thought of a somewhat weakened Blake having to guard Brandon Jennings makes me cringe. Who am I kidding, a full strength Blake guarding Jennings makes me nervous. The worrisome part is that Bogut’s 27 and 9 came with Joel Pryzbilla in the lineup. He is on the sidelines and the Blazers frontline is full of heart and desire but a little lacking in size. Bogut comes into tonight averaging 16 and 11 this month and the Bucks are a staggering 11-1 when he scores 17+  and 7-1 when he scores 20+. Obviously, key #1 is to shut Bogut down. I think LaMarcus could do a good job but at the same time that’s risking foul trouble.  The true killer in last month’s game was Luke Ridnour who dropped a smooth 20. If the Bucks can get a third scoring option, they become more dangerous.

For Portland, it’s a night where they don’t have to worry about Kobe Bryant or LeBron James so that’s a relief. This is a very winnable game, if Portland takes care of business. The margin of error is still very slim, as even though this team can win games they can just as easily lose them. Thje good news is that I highly doubt Brandon Roy will have as inefficient performance as he did in Milwaukee. 23 points on 24 shots is not going to get the job done. Also, great news could come in the form of the return of Rudy Fernandez who has been out of the lineup since December 5th. In the back of my head I wonder how his return will impact Jerryd Bayless and Martell Webster, just like I wonder how the return of Blake could impact Andre Miller.

Keys to the game

Don’t let them score 100: Seriously. Milwaukee is 7-3 when they score 100+ and 8-17 when they don’t. Portland is 1-11 when they give up 100. Defense, clap clap.

Contain Bogut: As stated above the Bucks are 11-1 when he scores 17 or more and 7-1 when he scores 20 or more. On the flipside, Milwaukee is only 1-7 when he scores in single figures. They’re pretty freaking good when he plays well and the opposite when he doesn’t. He’s a major key to this game and the harder we make it on him, the easier a W will come. Obviously, Brandon Jennings is a major part as well but I’m more concerned about Bogut because of his bigger impact on the team. Jennings’ going off does not have as huge of an impact as Bogut’s does as far as winning and losing. Unless he drops 55 we should be good. Fun fact:  when Jennings scores 17 or above the Bucks are only 9-11.

No third scoring option: Can’t let Ridnour get going like he did last month, can’t let Delfino or Bell hit threes, can’t let Warrick get easy baskets. They can struggle offensively, so lets hurt them by not letting them get a third scoring option.

Roy must be efficient: This will be a key for the rest of the year. He struggled in Milwaukee at the end of that road trip, if he plays a Roy-esque game the Blazers should be in great shape.

LaMarcus Aldridge: He went off on the Bucks in Milwaukee and looks to finally be rounding back into the LMA we all know and love after the 18 and 13 against Cleveland. Tonight would be a nice night to send an “I’m back” statement to the world.

Topics: Andre Miller, Andrew Bogut, Blazers Bucks, Brandon Jennings, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Luke Ridnour, Martell Webster, Michael Redd, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, Rudy Fernandez, Rudy Fernandez Back

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