Bulls-Bucks Preview

Milwaukee Bucks Status Check:
Record: 24-19
Division: 7-6
Conference: 18-10
Home Record: 12-9
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Streak: Won 2
Last game: 117-90 win over Detroit
PPG: 98.0 (12th)
Opponents PPG: 98.0 (17th)
Offensive Rating: 103.4 (20th)
Defensive Rating: 103.3 (8th)
Pace: 94.4 (5th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .473 (23rd)
Turnover Percentage: .130 (4th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .708 (28th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .284 (12th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .184 (24th)
Opp. eFG%: .478 (5th)
Opp. TO%: .147 (5th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .212 (22nd)
Leading scorer: Brandon Jennings (18.9)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Bucks Injury Report:
None

Overview:
Chicago and Milwaukee will meet for the last time in the regular season tonight as the Bulls try to even the series at two games apiece and pull further ahead in the Central Division.

The Bulls got Luol Deng back last time out, but may be without Carlos Boozer tonight. Boozington will be a game-time decision because of a hamstring injury. Although he started January off on a great run, he has cooled as of late. Boozer is shooting just 40.5 percent over the last five games, and is averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. However, he has played well so far against Milwaukee, averaging 21.0 points and 13.7 rebounds in the three previous games.

Deng, after missing five games, played 31 minutes against Charlotte. That’s a great sign going forward. Deng was averaging the most minutes in the league, so if Jimmy Butler’s emergence gives Lu fewer minutes, and in turn helps Butler develop, Bulls fans should be very pleased. Although the lighter load could just be because it was Deng’s first game back and Tom Thibodeau wanted to bring him back into it slowly. We’ll know for sure which it is if Deng is playing 45 minutes by the end of the week.

Rip Hamilton is averaging 18.7 points per game against the Bucks, his third best total against any opponent this season. He averaged 26.0 points per game over the first two games before going 2-11 in his 16 minutes of action in game three. Rip has scored in double figures just eight times since November (he was injured for much of December). He scored two points against Charlotte, and only played six minutes in the second half. Hamilton is probably going to continue losing minutes to Jimmy Butler, and when Rose returns, it may only get worse, with Kirk Hinrich taking some minutes at shooting guard. If Hamilton wants to stay in the lineup, he has to start making jumpers and force Thibs to have him on the floor (trading Rip would also solve this problem, which the Bulls are surely trying to do).

Even if the Bulls are without Boozer tonight, they do have a bit of an advantage, as Milwaukee will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back.

Milwaukee fell behind early against the Pistons Tuesday night, but then blew by Detroit behind 30 points from Brandon Jennings. Jennings was by far the best starter for the Bucks, who got a big lift from their bench. The Bucks’ reserves scored 59 points, led by 17 from Mike Dunleavy. Beno Udrih didn’t shoot well (3-9), but dished eleven assists. Samuel Dalembert recorded a double-double (12 points, 10 assists) off the pine in just 21 minutes.

The Pistons had their own gem off the bench, as Andre Drummond had a monster 18 points and 18 boards. The entire starting line-up for the Pistons combined for 19 rebounds.

Milwaukee, going up against a team that isn’t good at forcing turnovers, coughed it up just 10 times. They forced the Pistons into 21 turnovers, and scored 29 points off of them. The Bucks are 4th in turnover percentage and seventh in opponent turnover percentage. The Bulls have lost the turnover battle in the previous three games, but not by too much (15.3 to 12.3). Chicago has turned it over just eight (Lakers) and eleven (Bobcats) times in their last two games.

The Bucks got this big win without running their players into the ground—a novel idea right Mr. Thibodeau? Monta Ellis played the most minutes with 34. For comparison, Deng playing 31 minutes in a game causes me to celebrate (see above). Jennings did his damage in short time, scoring his 30 points in 30 minutes. And those were the only two guys that played about 30 minutes.

Jennings tore the Bulls up in the most recent matchup, scoring 35 points, and the Bulls blew a 27-point lead in another game to find themselves down in this series.

Chicago is 12-6 on the road, which is the best road record in the league, but over their next stretch they are going to prove how good they are away from the United Center. The Bulls play ten of their next 12 games on the road, with ten of those contests coming against playoff teams. The Bulls two home games over that stretch are against the top teams in each conference, San Antonio and Miami.

Stat of the night: The Bucks are averaging 12.3 blocks per game against the Bulls this season. Chicago is blocking 3.3 Milwaukee shots per match-up.

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