By Kevin Sawyer
Bucks: 14-16 (6-12 road)
Margin: +0.3 ppg (-1.0 road)
Last 10: 6-4 (margin +4.8)
Pistons: 16-11 (9-5 home)
Margin: +0.1 ppg (+2.1 home)
Last 10: 5-5 (margin -1.3)
Pop quiz. Which of these teams currently ranks 22nd in John Hollinger’s power rankings, and which ranks 11th? If you guessed the Bucks and Pistons, respectively, you aren’t good with putting pop quizzes into context. Alas, the Bucks come to the Palace having won five of their last six, and are playing on four days rest. The Pistons, of course, needed each and every second to put away the OKC Thunder last night.
The Bucks are an interesting team. Had they kept Mo Williams, instead of (absurdly) trading him for Luke Ridnour, they might be a dark horse to win a playoff round. Instead, the combo of Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut hasn’t provided enough offensive firepower.
Redd, in particular, seems to miss having another shooter on the squad. His 41% field goal percentage rates as a career low by a country mile. Meanwhile, it is unclear why backup Ramon Sessions has not been granted the starting spot. Ridnour is a solid backup, but nothing more.
The Bucks are a greatly improved defensive squad, with rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and hardnosed coach Scott Skiles earning much of the credit in this department. They play a VERY physical style, which shows up at the foul line, where Bucks opponents arrive 31 times per game. They are also an outstanding offensive rebounding squad, which will be fun to watch I’m sure.
I would expect to see coach Skiles chew out the PISTONS backcourt, just on principle.
Keys for Detroit:
Get the bigs involved: The Bucks don’t have a single front-court option that has been able to avoid foul trouble. Sheed, Dyess and Amir (fingers-crossed) should make a particular effort to get inside, since all three can hit free throws.
Run in transition: Curious as it sounds, given the Bucks’ recent history, a fast paced game will take them out of their element. They miss a lot of shots, and a faster pace tends to limit second-chance opportunities. Again, why play small ball if you aren’t going to do this?
Just because you haven’t heard of them, doesn’t mean you don’t defend them: Ramon Sessions and Luc Richard Etc are very good at what they do, and each can put up a double-double. With Luke Ridnour possibly limited due to flu-like symptoms, Sessions could be set for a big game.
Question of the game:
Can the Pistons stand a real test? Detroit has been feasting (if you can call it that) a VERY weak schedule. Now that they are consistently playing real NBA teams, we should get a better idea of where they stand.