This mid-week edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent the improving Milwaukee Bucks who recently signed former Sixer Jerry Stackhouse.
We’re not really sure what to say about the 76ers game against the Milwaukee Bucks (18-25) tonight. On one hand, the Sixers recently beat a very good, but road weary Dallas Mavericks squad. On the other hand, one could argue that the Sixers last two loses — @ Minnesota and vs. Indiana — were the two most disturbing Ls of the 2009-10 season.
In addition to the Sixers inconsistent play, Milwaukee is a much different team since we beat them 99-86 back in October. Obviously All-Star Michael Redd is out for the season now, but thanks to the play of Rookie of the Year candidate Brandon Jennings and big man Andrew Bogut, who has been playing out of his mind of late, the Bucks have not fallen off. In fact during the month of January the Bucks have been playing some of their best ball and it’s come against the NBA’s elite teams. The problem for MIL is that because of the recent level of competition they have faced, the improved play still has produced mostly gut wrenching loses.
So the Sixers play continues to be inconsistent, they should be pissed-off about Monday’s terrible L to Indiana and they’ve had a day off. Mean while the Bucks are an improving team, but one that suffered a heartbreaking loss at Dallas last night and should be tired. Vegas has installed the Bucks as a 3.5 point favorite which means this is an even match-up if the game was played on a neutral floor. We’re looking at a coin toss here…Sixers. One last point, if Jrue Holiday does not guard Brandon Jennings for the bulk of the night, Jennings puts up 40.
For a little more insight into the Bucks team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Jeremy Schmidt from bucksketball.com to answer two questions on Milwaukee from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this Bucks squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : Since January 10th, the Bucks have had a brutal schedule and while they have played well at times, Milwaukee has not brought home many Ws. When you combine that stretch with last night’s heartbreaking loss at Dallas we’d like to know if you think the Bucks are on the verge of finding the answers and making something of this season or is this team on the edge of a complete breakdown?
Jeremy Schmidt @ bucksketball.com : Believe it or not, it appears the Bucks are on the verge of a breakthrough. Now that you’ve stopped laughing, the Bucks last five games have been a study in heartbreak and youth. At Houston, the Bucks stuck with a very smart and sturdy Rockets squad before trading leads with them throughout the second half of the fourth quarter. A not-so-well designed play that left rookie Brandon Jennings resulted in an errant shot at the end of regulation. The Rockets out-executed the Bucks in overtime and Milwaukee couldn’t connect on a last second three that would have resulted in a second overtime, despite a great look for Luke Ridnour. A bounce different here a roll different there and Milwaukee could have pulled that one out.
And that pretty much sums up the Bucks last five games. A bounce here and a roll there and they beat Dallas in Dallas. Had Milwaukee not forgot how to shoot three-pointers in Toronto they would have shot the Raps out of the zone they successfully used against Andrew Bogut in the second half and won a game that they were leading for 40 minutes.
So a few things go in their direction and we’re talking about a Milwaukee team that could have won five straight. Alas, things have happened as they have and Milwaukee is 2-3 in their last five games. But there certainly is hope and the team has played well.
Philadunkia : We thought picking up Philly native Hakim Warrick, who spurned the Sixers offer this last off-season, was a great move for the Bucks. While Warrick is hitting for his career averages so far in 2009-10, we thought he would have a bigger impact in Milwaukee. In your opinion how has Hakim played this season for Milwaukee?
Jeremy Schmidt @ bucksketball.com : Warrick was like Denzel Washington in the pre-season: Man On Fire. Hak’ dunked everything in sight and was getting to the free-throw line a ton. As the season has gone on, Warrick’s defense has made it more difficult for him to stay on the court. He’s not really big enough to match-up with a lot of power forwards and he’s not quick enough to stay with small forwards; he’s trapped in an in-between. That being said, when he’s been in the game to provide offense he’s done well lately.
His go-to move, aside from the dunks he loves so much (and we loveto watch), is a post-up followed by at least one pump fake. At that point it’s rare Hak’ ever converts on the basket, but more often than not he’ll draw the foul and get to the line, something not many Bucks do. With Luc Richard Mbah a Moute starting at the four and Ersan Ilyasova now coming off the bench, opportunities for playing time have been scarce recently for Warrick and he’s received the dreaded DNP-CD in two of the Bucks last three games.
Two Points of Analysisfrom Jeremy Schmidt @ bucksketball.com :
1) If you haven’t heard, Andrew Bogut is really good now. Like really really good now.
You won’t find a better combination of shot-blocking and charge taking in an NBA center, this I promise you. He’s averaging a combined 3.11 blocks and charges taken per game on the season and has been blowing those numbers away in January. Through 13 January games, Bogut is averaging 17.8 points (on 57.5 percent shooting), 11.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. He’s had six games with three or more blocks and anchors a very good Bucks defense. Bogut may not make it as an all-star reserve, but that may have more to do with his market size than the size of his game.
2) Brandon Jennings is not a young Allen Iverson.
When Jennings exploded on the league back in November with his 55-point game, this was a common comparison people were making. Jennings didn’t exactly discourage it by citing Iverson as someone he looked up to as he grew up, but there are some differences.
Jennings shooting percentages have been on a steady decline since the end of November, but his attempts haven’t. In Philadelphia, you may remember a young Allen Iverson chucking shots left and right with varying degrees of success and I’ll admit there are some parallels. Both were ultra-quick and both seemed to have no conscience as young players, two things to build on with a young player. The biggest difference in my eyes is how each player thought about himself.
Iverson always seemed to havethe mindset that no matter who else was on the court, the best option was for him to shoot the ball. I’m not saying he was selfish, he just felt that the best way to win was for him to be shooting the ball because he was the best player out there. That’s not necessarily flawed reasoning. Jennings though, while thinking he’s a great player, is often looking to get shots for others even if he’s putting up a bunch of his own. Jennings has always maintained that his role is to not turn the ball over, get his teammates involved and win games. At no point have I ever thought Iverson needed to be MORE aggressive, whereas Jennings has lapses where he feels a little too comfortable spotting up or pulling up for jumpers. He’d be better served to attack and dish or attack and get shots at the rim, somewhere Iverson excelled at almost from day one in his NBA career.
In short, Jennings seems to have a much more traditional point guard oriented game than Iverson ever did.