Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks: CJ , Rip out tonight (Game Preview #41)

[thanks to slowmotion for today's game preview (sign up!). News from shootaround today suggested that both Rip Hamilton and CJ Watson could be out for a while. Game Thread up at 7:08 -yfbb.]

On Wednesday the Bulls (32-8) face the Milwaukee Bucks (15-23) at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center to defend their league best overall record (32-8), road record (17-6), win streak (W7), and 10 game stretch (9-1) in the NBA.

The Bulls come off a fairly easy win in the much anticipated "revenge" game against Indiana, but lose old decrepit Rip Hamilton in the process to a shoulder injury.

The Bucks are sitting on the playoff bubble, holding the 9th seed and currently trailing the 8th seeded Knicks by 3 games. Although the Bucks have struggled of late (3-7 in their last 10 game stretch), they face the Bulls fresh off of an inspired 97-93 win at Philadelphia.

The Bulls enter tonight's game favored by 6.5 points and have won the past seven consecutive meetings against the Bucks dating back to last season.

Scouting the enemy:

PG: Brandon Jennings (18.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.4 rpg, 18.63 PER)

Rose and Jennings seems to have a meta-game developing as each time Jennings sets out to prove himself, he is destroyed by Rose’s danceless will. Jennings exploded with 19 first quarter points against the Sixers to set the tone for the Bucks, a performance consistent with an outstanding March thus far. In three games, Jennings is averaging 31.3 ppg and 7.0 apg on .476/.476/.774 shooting. Additionally, Jennings has been drawing an excellent 8 FTA/game, an area he has struggled with for his career.

The Rose/Jennings matchup is most notable for Jennings early first quarter explosion the first time the two teams met. Sam Smith breaks that Rose, while munching on skittles, was shown a clip of Brandon Jennings questionable dance videos and activated his own beast mode to own Jennings in subsequent quarters. Let’s hope that Jennings does some poppin’ and lockin’ out there tonight.

SG: Carlos Delfino (9.2 ppg, 2.4 apg, 3.7 rpg, 11.79 PER)

Delfino is an excellent jump-shooter (37% 3-point pct), but shoots a lackluster 38% from the field due to a lack of high percentage shots close to the rim. Delfino has always been a player who’s contributions do not seem easily captured by statistics anyway, and is consistently among the league leaders in standard deviation across metrics (PER, Win Shares, Wins Produced, Regularized Advanced plus Minus (RAPM), and ASPM). After leading the league in advanced statistical plus/minus (ASPM) for a brief spell two seasons ago and watching him play, the stat was shortly thereafter rendered completely useless by sensible NBA pundits.

SF: Tobias Harris (5 ppg, .5 apg, 2.4 rpg, 15.82 PER)

19 year old Tobias Harris, selected 19th in last year’s draft as the Bucks first round draft pick will be starting in place of injured Luc Mbah a Moute, who is out with a nagging right knee injury. Harris is a good inside player with a poor jump shot, backed up by fellow rookie Jon Leuer who boasts a solid jumper and is one of few players in the NBA to escape Neil Funk’s scorn. Combined, these two form a serviceable Bucks tandem at SF with decent future potential.

PF: Ersan Ilyasova (11.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg, .7 bpg, 18.74 PER)

Much has been made of Ersan Ilyasova's recent hot streak, culminating with his impressive 29 point 25 rebound effort against New Jersey and a game winning tip-in to defeat the Wizards. Ilyasova has continued his trend of excellent play, posting averages of 16 points 11 rebounds over his last 14 games, and most impressively snatching 4.9 offensive rebounds during that stretch. The Bulls dominated the glass against Indiana after looking quite shaky in Philadelphia. Look at limiting Ilyasova’s offensive rebounds to be a critical factor for keeping the Bucks at bay.

C: Drew Gooden (13.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, .6 bpg, 19.06 PER)

Gooden is coming off a nice game in Philadelphia scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. This continues a streak of good play, where Gooden has recorded three double doubles in his last five games since returning from his standard mid season injury.

In two games this season versus Chicago he is averaging 23.5 ppg and 9.0 rpg. His above average ability to hit long twos, and to draw fouls or easy baskets on a shotfake /drive time and time again seems to frustrate our centers, who have not yet learned to adjust to his old man game. Expect to see this move a couple of times tonight, and see if the Bulls can counter by staying on their feet and contest without fouling.

The plethora of Bulls fans flooding the Bradley center provide additional support for our guys, and in some ways playing in Milwaukee is even better than playing at home as we have White Mamba mojo without suffering through our fans clamoring for free Big Macs. The Bulls have done an excellent job this season of beating up on lesser teams, and should have this game in the bag. Visit Brew Hoop for Bucks insights or stay at BaB for hilarious game threads complete with anything goes banter and rough and tough internet fights for all.

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