Blazers/Bucks Pre-Thoughts


There’s no place like home right? After what could be seen as a disappointing split on an East Coast road trip, the Blazers are back home. At least we won’t have to be concerned about any wackiness. Tonight marks the Blazers return to the Rose Garden for the beginning of a three-game homestand against Eastern Conference opponents. First up….*cue ominous music*…the Milwaukee Bucks.

Milwaukee is currently the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference at 20-23. They are a Scott Skiles led team so you can never count them out. But they are also wildly inconsistent and pretty much the definition of a .500 team. Don’t believe me? Literally since defeating Utah on December 23rd for their third straight victory they have won a game, then lost a game, then won a game, the lost a game. W-L-W-L-W-L for the last month almost. Let’s hope they break that pattern tonight as they come off a loss at the Clippers. Back to the inconsistency, this is a team that has won in San Antonio but lost at Minnesota and at the Clippers. The short-handed Clippers. The Mardy Collins led Clippers. Yeah.

Compounding their problems with consistency are the fact that they aren’t a very good road team. 9-16? Ew. Ew. Ew.

Another problem for Milwaukee? There really isn’t one thing that they do great. With most teams there is always something you can point to, but with Milwaukee you really can’t. They are a Scott Skiles led squad that struggles defensively. Those two just don’t mix, it’s like a Playboy Bunny who can’t stand being naked. They do a great job of forcing turnovers (tops in the league surprisingly) but they also turn the ball over a lot themselves. They don’t particularly shoot the ball well. And it’s not like I can act like they are the Bobcats and say they always play hard because they don’t. I’ve seen it.

So what do the Bucks have going for them? Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson. That’s really about it. This dynamic duo has underwhelmed in the opinion of many but are still very much in the dangerous category. Michael Redd’s stock might be down after the Olympics and his struggles this year but he’s the type of player who can go off for 40 anytime he steps in the gym. What’s even scarier is that Redd seems to have come back to life in the past week or so. In the past 5 games he’s shooting over 50% and averaging just over 28. Yikes, indeed. Jefferson compliments him in not only can he score but he can create his own shot. He attacks the basket and finds himself at the free throw line. You aren’t going to confuse him with D-Wade but you have a vicious three point shooter with a guy getting to the line 7-8 times and good things are happening.

(Sidenote: I’m assuming Andrew Bogut is out.)

As with most Eastern Conference teams, after you get past the top two there is a pretty big fall off. Luke Ridnour has been playing great basketball as of late and obviously has to be contained. Other than that, not a lot of offense. Charlie Villanueva scares me because of what he did to the Blazers last year but he’s wildly inconsistent. 25 points then 8 then 16 then 7. That would be his theme song if he had one. In the event that Bogut sits out, the Bucks are relying on Dan Gadzuric and Francisco Elson as their big men. If you aren’t laughing you aren’t human because that’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. I wouldn’t pick those guys up in a pickup game.

Keys to success:

  • No third scoring option. There’s a chance that either Redd or Jefferson struggles which would make life about 50 times easier for the Blazers tonight. But there’s also a chance they don’t struggle and Charlie Villanueva goes off. Or Luke Ridnour goes off. I’ll take Redd and Jefferson getting no help thank you very much. The Blazers have to not only accept the challenge of containing the two superstars but also not letting any of the other Bucks score. Against Charlotte…come on you can’t give Juwan Howard 8 points. Tonight I don’t want to see Francisco Elson or Gadzuric with 6 a piece.
  • Be aggressive. This is not a good road team, attack them from the start and send a message that this is going to be a long night. It’s been a while since the Blazers had a great start…why not have one tonight?
  • Keep them under 100 points. Of their 20 wins this season, 12 of them have come when the Bucks have scored 100+. 12-5 vs. 8-15…I’m thinking I want them to score under 100.
  • Box out. This is a team that should get NO second chances. Inevitable they will but keep Villanueva, Mbah a Moute, Bogut if he plays and Jefferson off the glass, they aren’t talented enough to hang with Portland unless they get multiple chances to score.
  • Take care of the ball. Can’t give a mediocre team like Milwaukee easy transition points off of turnovers. We learned that lesson in Philadelphia.
  • Make free throws. Pointing at you #7.
  • Get one of the X-Factors going. This would be a great game for Oden to comeback and beast, especially with Bogut out and after his confidence hit a new low after getting boomed on. Bayless, Rudy or Travis or going to have to step up double time with Blake out.

Interesting game in that the Blazers will just have to take care of business to win. Much easier said than done these days. Thank goodness Mo Williams is in Cleveland.