Game Preview & Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

Kurt —  January 11, 2008

Records: Lakers 23-11; Bucks 15-20
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.2 (5th); Bucks 104.6 (20th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.1 (7th); Bucks 110.8 (27th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Bucks: Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, Yi Jianlian, Andrew Bogut

Lakers Notes: Can you really get enough Andrew Bynum love?

David Thorpe,’s best analyst (for my money) breaks down Bynum is a (for now) free post on the Web site. Here are a few highlights, but you really need to read the entire thing.

The Lakers play at the fifth fastest pace in the NBA and Bynum is a beneficiary of their style and speed. He rarely races down the floor, choosing instead to run methodically rim-to-rim (even in transition) and looking to make contact with his defender inside. He occasionally sets a drag screen for the guard but even then he heads right to the paint afterward hoping for the quick lob.

Credit Phil Jackson and the Lakers for recognizing that Bynum is most effective when the defense is still getting set, while part of that number also comes from offensive rebounds. Still, as defenses retreat worrying about Kobe, it’s often Bynum who hurts them.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar deserves much praise for Bynum’s development. Most impressively, Bynum has learned how to use his size, speed and length in a far more productive way. Just as Shaq excelled because he had both the body and the mind-set to use his body, so it is with Bynum. He has a different body, but a similar mind-set.

On the glass, he’s active and his strong hands enable him to pull down 50/50 balls with regularity. He also seems to be more engaged in the whole process — rebounds start with “want to” and Bynum has that now.

If Bynum makes just marginal strides in his next two years, he could grow into a dominant player. And if, by 21, he makes the same phenomenal jump he’s made this season, we could be talking about one of the top two true centers in the league next year.

The Bucks Coming In: The Bucks are the proving the Ewing Theory of late — they have a three game winning streak, all while Michael Redd is sitting. Redd is expected to play tonight, according to the latest reports, but those can be about as accurate as the local weatherman.

Mo Williams has been playing great ball for the Bucks in the last 10 games, averaging 21.8 points and 7.4 assists per game in that stretch. He also is hot shooting — 42.9% from three in the last 10 so you have to stay with him out high.

Of course, there is Redd, who dropped 26 on the Lakers back in November. He is one of the games better pure shooters (even if his eFG% is below 50% this season). Also, the Bucks run a balanced attack with five guys averaging double figures in points.

What is hurting the Bucks is defense — they are 27th in the league in defensive efficiency, and only one other team allows other teams to shoot a higher percentage against them (the Knicks). The Bucks have been struggling to defend the point and in the paint (last meeting with the Lakers Fisher had 14 points on 71% shooting and Bynum had 16-13).

Last Time These Two Met: The fourth quarter was one of the worst 12 minutes of basketball the Lakers have played all year, as they got outscored by 12, gave up the lead and lost. The Lakers played one of their worst defensive games overall, allowing the Bucks as a team to shoot 54.3% (eFG%), which is 6% higher than their season average.

That was back in November, the Lakers have played much better of late.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers have to stop the high screen and roll. Last time these two met the Bucks ran that play a lot, particularly in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers had no answer. Not only did Williams and Redd (with the ball) get a lot of good shots, but the Lakers help defenders were collapsing and that left Bucks shooters open at the three point line. The Lakers defended that same problem much better against the Hornets a couple nights ago, they will need that same level of defensive performance.

The Lakers should be able to get their points, particularly if they get thhe ball on the block to Bynum and Odom and play inside-out. According to the scouting report, expect to see some zone defense. As always, attack a zone in its weak center and that opens up shots over the top of it.

Also, the Bucks bench has been a key to their recent run, the Lakers need to win the battle of the bench tonight and not rely too much on their starters.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into Fox Sports, or you can watch the ESPN broadcast as we are going national, baby.