Preview & Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

Kurt —  December 7, 2008

Lakers vs Wizards
Records: Lakers 16-2 (1st in West) Bucks 9-12 (11th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.2 (2nd in league) Bucks 102.8 (24th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.5 (3rd in league) Bucks 104.5 (11th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Bucks Luke Ridnour, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Malik Allen, Andrew Bogut

Lakers notes: It’s a sign of how far the Lakers have come that they won two of three on an East Coast road trip and fans are complaining.

It’s the way those games went that draws the criticism, the blown leads in the fourth quarter. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said in the comments — the play of the second unit late in games on the road is something to be addressed. But that is why there is an 82 game season before the games that really matter, and we are just 22% of the way through it. Anyone who thinks they know now from watching the Lakers or Celtics so far what could happen in June (if both teams even make it that far) thinks they know too much.

That said, it is a concern. DrRayeye had a great idea in the comments, putting together a “hold em” squad that features Lakers bench guys who make smart decisions with the ball, guys like Walton. Could work. Personally, after rewatching the Washington game, what is frustrating is how the Lakers start to go away from what works on offense. The second unit seems to suddenly either be out for themselves or just showboating a little and losing focus, then Kobe comes in and dominates the ball rather than running the offense. The defensive problems seem to feed off of this (and the Wizards gained confidence) but the Lakers woes seem to start when they get away from the offense.

Jackson has sent the message through the media that he may reinsert the starters in the fourth even with a big lead. Maybe he was lighting a fire under that second unit, maybe he means it, but either way the message about focus and staying with the offense have been sent.

The Lakers should get to test that out tonight. Should.

The Bucks Coming In: The Bucks looked better in their last outing a win over the Bobcats, in large part because the team is getting healthy. Most recently the $60 million man Andrew Bogut is back and playing. Redd missed the first 14 games.

As you might expect of a Scott Skiles team, they are playing hard on defense. Most of the time. But Skiles was fired for not using all the offensive firepower in Chicago well and now he has Redd and Jefferson and…. well, some guys who need to be put in the right position to succeed. And that is not happening a lot so far (but the injuries tie in here).

Milwaukee is home to the Luke Ridnour Reclamation Project (a great band name), but the guy to watch is Ramon Sessions backing him up. Sessions has the second best PER on the team (behind that Redd guy). Richard Jefferson is shooting just 48.1% (eFG%) and his true shooting percentage is well off his career numbers.

I’m also looking forward to seeing UCLA product Luc Mbah a Moute, who is carving out a role for himself as a hustle guy off the bench. I wasn’t sure how his game would translate to the next level, but you just can’t underestimate desire and hustle.

Keys To The Game: Here are a couple reasons I think the Lakers should get a big lead to try and hold tonight. First, the Bucks are one of the worst second quarter in the NBA while the Lakers are the best second quarter team in the Association. Meaning the Lakers bench should dominate. Next, the Bucks are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the three, meaning the suddenly hot Radmanovic as well as Fisher, Kobe and the gang should be getting good looks from deep.

I haven’t watched a lot of Bucks ball this season, but you don’t need to see much to figure out this is a jump-shooting team (Bogut and others just did not impress in and around the rim). The Lakers need to close out on the shooters and they need to dominate the boards. On offense, they should be able to get big nights out of Gasol and Bynum because the Bucks have not defended the four and five well this season.

Where you can watch: Standard Sunday, 6:30, Fox Sports night.