Milwaukee Bucks (27-28) vs Portland Trailblazers (27-29)
7:30 CST, Bradley Center, Milwaukee Wisconsin
Line: Bucks by 5
Milwaukee has enjoyed this stretch of the season. Throughout the past month, the Bucks have climbed their way within 1 game of the Knicks and 2.5 of the 7th seed Philadelphia Sixers, and have taken care of business against the cellar of the Eastern Conference. The trend continued last night in Charlotte, as the Bucks muscled out a 95-90 victory. Everyone was not thrilled with the victory, however. Count Scott Skiles as one of the dissenters;
“Our preparation this morning wasn’t good, we weren’t good to start the game, defense was terrible and we won. Yippee.”
Just another of the many emotions of Scott Skiles, who usually transitions between intense, focused, and concentrated. In all fairness, Skiles does have a point. The Bucks extremely under performed against the Eastern Conference worst Bobcats. They need to step up their play before the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.
Their final tuneup before Monday’s showdown comes tonight against the Portland Trailblazers. These two teams met back in late march in Portland, a game that the Bucks completely dominated. The final score, 116-87, does not tell just how well the Bucks performed, a hopeful sign for tonight.
Ellis had a good performance last night, but some cause for concern emerged. His 2-6 shooting in the fourth quarter was frustrating to watch, as his jumpers clanged off the back rim. What we had praised him for earlier in the week, his late game performance last night was only redeemed by his icing the game with his free throw attempts. 9-21 isn’t a horrid shooting night, but games like last night fuel his detractors, who say his scoring production doesn’t compensate for his poor shot selection. In his last game against Portland, Monta had a great performance, with 14 points and 9 assists. If he can repeat this performance or better it, the Bucks can cruise to victory.
The new Buck has finally found his place in Milwaukee’s scheme, and has forced his way into the starting lineup. On any given night, Udoh is a threat for a double double, and has firmed up the Bucks interior defense. Without Bogut, the Bucks have had a serious shortage of blocks. Udoh has filled this gap, last night recording 3, including a critical late game block of a Kemba Walker layup attempt. Tonight, Ekpe and Ilyasova will have the unenviable task of guarding All Star LaMarcus Aldridge, fresh off hitting a game-winning shot against the Mavericks.
Several Bucks are still nursing injuries and are questionable for tonight’s game. Drew Gooden is expected to play a limited role as he plays his first game back from a back injury. Carlos Delfino will also make an appearance as he continues to regain form from his groin injury. The news is not as positive for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who will again be held out due to a lingering knee injury. Time will only tell how effective Delfino and Drew will be, but their presence on the court should give the Bucks offense a boost for tonight’s game.