Trophy Hunters

4/13/12

Milwaukee Bucks (28-30) at Detroit Pistons (22-36)

The Bucks are not out of the playoff hunt. If they want to stay in it, however, they will need to win a bunch of games. A good place to start is Detroit, where the struggling Pistons make a good launching point for the Bucks, a team desperately in need of wins. 

Greg Monroe

Yesterday at Charlotte, the Pistons crushed the Bobcats behind the dominating play of Greg Monroe, who scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. He’s played similarly well against Milwaukee this season, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds in the 3-game season series. Shutting down Monroe’s paint dominance (I’m looking at you, Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh) will go a long way towards shutting down the Pistons tonight.

Brandon Knight

Knight also had a good game last night against the Bobcats, netting 21 points in Detroit’s win. He did better than that last time out against the Bucks, scoring a career high 26 points and dishing 7 assists to help the Pistons win. If Monroe is Batman, Knight is his Robin whom the Bucks will need to shut down. 

Monta Ellis

Ellis has played generally well in his short time in Milwaukee, but he has recently been showing just how high his ceiling is, scoring 25+ in 3 of the last 5 games. His 35-point, 10-assist effort was not enough against New York, but a repeat performance would go a long way in taking down the Pistons, and the earlier he can set the pace, the better the outlook is for the Bucks.

The Bucks need to win this game.

4/7/2012

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.

Monta Ellis

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. 

Ekpe Udoh

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. 

Banged Up

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.



4/4/12

Milwaukee Bucks (25-28) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-34)

Milwaukee’s playoff chase continues tonight at the Bradley Center with a very winnable game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks are 1.5 games back of the Knicks in the East, and the Cavs have lost 8 straight games.

Brandon Jennings/Monta Ellis

So far, the Jennings/Ellis backcourt situation seems to be tightening up, and the duo have quickly become what Milwaukee’s fans/ownership imagined and hoped for. Most games have seen at least one of these players step up with the other turning in a solid, supporting performance, and a continuation of that theme tonight would be for the best.

Ekpe Udoh

The less-talked about addition from Golden State, Udoh has played well thus far with Milwaukee, and turned in his best performance in a Bucks uniform yet last time out with 15 points, 8 rebounds and a career high 5 assists. If Udoh continues to put in solid performances, the team won’t need him to be a star and will thrive. 

Kyrie Irving

(Re-)Injured in his last time out against Milwaukee, Irving will sit again tonight. The near shoo-in for rookie of the year is Cleveland’s best player, and his absence gives the Bucks an even greater opportunity to close the 8th-seed gap.

If the Bucks play solid, Scott Skiles basketball this game should be over by the 3rd quarter. Anything is possible, though, and the Bucks need to focus on sealing this game early.

Fear the Deer!


25-28!

4/2/2012

Milwaukee Bucks 112-98 Washington Wizards

The Bucks took the lead early in the first quarter and never looked back as they cruised to a comfortable 112-98 win.  Although Milwaukee let a big lead dwindle away at the beginning of the second half, an offensive explosion from the duo of Ellis and Jennings led the rout from that point on.

Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis 

The Monta Ellis-Brandon Jennings combination has taken some time to gel. The two players are both amazing talents, but despite his chemistry with the other members of the squad, Monta has struggled to work together with Jennings.  Tonight, the two were completely in sync, combining for 36 points, 13 assists.  The stats are impressive; the visual performance was beautiful.  Constantly, the two pestered their assignments around the perimeter and lead the team down the court on fast break opportunities.  Driving and kicking out, Jennings worked Ellis into the offense, and Ellis returned the favor with tight distributions to Udoh, Gooden, and the rest of the gang. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Shaun Livingston

Although his stats were not overly impressive (10 points, 4 rebounds), it was encouraging to see Shaun have a good performance.  Its been a tough season for the young guard so far. After arriving in Milwaukee with such great optimism, Livingston suffered an ankle injury last month, and with the arrival of Ellis, has seen his playing time dwindle.  Tonight’s 10 points mark the first time since late February that Livingston has scored in the double digits, and his 24 minutes the most since March 2nd.  His 5-5 shooting on field goals in the final quarter put the game beyond all doubt.  Even though his performance will most likely not dictate the Bucks playoff chances, Shaun is an easily likable character, and his promising future can be seen in games like this one.

3 Cupcakes, 1 Stinker

The final month of the season starts out quite favorably for the Bucks.  Beginning with the Wizards, the Bucks will go on to play Cleveland, Charlotte, and Portland in their next three games, against whom Milwaukee has a combined 4-1 record.  The schedule does toughen a bit after that, with home games against the Thunder, Knicks, and Pacers.  

Fear the Deer!

3/20/2012

Milwaukee Bucks (20-24) vs Portland Trailblazers (21-24)

9:30 CST, Rose Garden, Portland Oregon

Line: Portland by 4

The Bucks are in an enviable position right now.  Sitting half a game behind 8th seed Knicks (over whom the Bucks hold the tiebreaker), the remaining schedule is a dream for a squad looking to make a push for the playoffs.  13 of their final 22 games are against teams with losing records, and the Bucks have 2 games each against Boston and New York, the teams directly ahead of them in the standings.  Although it is a bit early to start looking at seeding issues, I would feel much more hopeful of an upset against #2 seed Miami than #1 seed Chicago.

The Bucks travel to Portland riding a 5 game winning streak, the longest active streak in the NBA, and a wave of momentum from new additions Monta Ellis and Ekpedeme Friday Udoh.  Unfortunately, even though Ekpe’s parents are Nigerian, Ekpe was born in Oklahoma, thus resulting in a net loss of international flavor from this Bucks team with the departure of the Aussie Andrew Bogut.  

Trading Places

The trade deadline brought about two very different fates for these two franchises.  As we mentioned already, the addition of Monte Ellis and Ekpe Udoh, along with the shedding of two non-factors (In terms of playing this year), the Bucks are pushing their chips in for a playoff run this season.  Portland opted to tear down and rebuild, firing coach Nate McMillan, trading away Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, and releasing former first overall pick Greg Oden.  While this sets them up well with cap space and draft picks next year, the team has essentially given up on this year, which is a positive for the Bucks.

Getting Monta Up to Speed

Before the trade, the Bucks were already pushing the ball up the court at a frantic pace, ranking 7th in the league in pace of play.  However, they were fluid and efficient with the ball, with the NBA’s 4th best assist to turnover ratio.  With the addition of Monta, the Bucks have yet another quick guard to put up points and facilitate the fast break.  But he will have to integrate himself into the offense quickly, lest his lack of experience with this team lead to increasing turnovers and miscommunication.

Familiar Faces

Bucks fans will see a familiar face tonight as Wesley Matthews is projected to be starting at guard for the Blazers.  Matthews has deep Wisconsin ties, attending school at James Madison Memorial High in Madison, Wisconsin and earning Mr Basketball honors.  He then went on to a fantastically successful career at Marquette University, but went undrafted. After bouncing around the league, Matthews signed a 5 year, $34 million deal with Portland, and has worked his way into the starting line up.  A great story about a Wisconsin kid.

Trade.

The Bucks have traded for Guard Monte Ellis, Forward Ekpe Udoh and Center Kwame Brown from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Center Andrew Bogut and Forward Stephen Jackson.

  • Ellis is averaging 22 points and 6 assists a game so far this season.
     
  • Udoh is averaging near 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game this season.
  • Brown is out with a torn pectoral muscle and has been since the 10th game of the season.