On Tap: Milwaukee Bucks

Kurt —  March 24, 2006

Record: 34-34. 7th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Offensive Rating: 102.3 (19th in the NBA)
Defensive Rating: 104.2 (21st in the NBA)

Un-Freakin-Believable: I was so frustrated with UCLA’s play last night, the mental errors (that are just part of the college game but still not easy to accept) that I almost turned off the game with four minutes to go. What a finish. If the Bruins advance that will be their Tyus Edney moment. Plus, as a guy who has Texas winning it all in his pool, that was a great ending.

Blogging and the Media: No, this is not another take on the Collin Cowherd incident.

Rather, Sports Illustrated this week takes a look at how the Internet is changing sports coverage, focusing on the rise of ESPN’s “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons, who makes sports pronouncements from a fans seat, not with a press credential (most of the time). You can’t get this SI article online (unless you are a magazine subscriber), but it’s worth the read I think there are some valid points.

However, Henry over at True Hoop makes better ones (this is almost a must read, if you care about this issue). If sports fans were getting what they thought was a complete picture of their teams from the credentialed media, sites like this one wouldn’t exist. While the Lakers have a number of beat writers and columnists who cover them regularly (and the beat guys do a good job), rarely is the coverage much different — not only the same news but often the same quotes and innuendos. Rarely is it outside of the box, or in this case outside the press box thinking. I started this blog because I wanted less soap opera and more on-the-court talk. Maybe that’s not what editors wanted, maybe the soap opera is better for ratings and readership numbers, but it’s not what I wanted to read. And at least a few of you seem to agree. Could I do this blog better with a credential? Probably, although the feel would change just by having the access. But insightfulness, understanding the game and effort isn’t handed out with the credential. Henry does a good job pointing out the stale media and reasons for the rise of blogs, in part they are an alternative to groupthink in the press box.

Enough soap box, what about the Lakers and the playoffs? The Lakers are currently the seventh seed out west, one game ahead of the eighth seed Kings, two games up on the number nine Hornets, and three up on the Jazz. In case you’re curious, the Lakers are four games back of six-seed Memphis, which is too bad because the six seed would mean Denver not Phoenix (or San Antonio, or Dallas) in the first round.

Injury Update: Chris Mihm is looking like he will be out until about the start of the playoffs. Meaning we all have to hope Kwame really is getting it.

As for tonight, Sasha is questionable with a turned ankle from practice. That means Smush all night on TJ Ford.

The Bucks Coming in: Michael Redd is good — we can debate whether he’s worth the contract he got, but he is good. He is shooting 49% (eFG%) from the field on the season (50.8% in the last 10 games) and leads the Bucks with a +/- of +9.6. He’s going to get his points, but the good news is he is not much of a defender, so Kobe should get his too.

Bobby Simmons got the big-money deal last off-season but took some time to adjust to the Bucks. Of late he has been on fire, shooting 57.6% in the last 10 games, scoring 17.6 points and grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game. And he can play defense. As I said before, the biggest match up of the night will be Smush Parker trying to slow TJ Ford. Ford has been scoring 11.3 points and dishing out 7.4 assists per game the last 10. I think the consensus is Smush needs to get up on his guy to play better defense.

The Lakers beat the Bucks once this season, but that was back in early December. Redd had 21 and Fold 16, but the Lakers led from the mid point of the first quarter and ran away with it in the second half. Smush, Kobe and Odom all had more than 20 points.

Key to a Laker win: Two things, the first is the obvious of play good defense. The Laker defense comes and goes, but the Bucks have won only 33% of their games against the top 10 defensive teams in the league, and the Lakers can be that good some nights. Second, pass the ball — the Bucks have lost 71% of their games against the top 10 teams in getting assists.

The Bucks struggle to defend every position except the two. Odom, and maybe Kwame again, can get some points inside on the block if the mismatches are there, or in Odom’s case on the outside as well. Kobe will get his, but if they focus on him the others just need to knock down the open chances they will get. This is a winnable game, the kind you expect the Lakers to win. But if they are looking ahead to New Orleans Sunday, well, we’ve seen that result before.