Preview & Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

Kurt —  April 1, 2009

Records: Lakers 58-16 (1st in West) Bucks 32-43 (tied for 10th in the East, 3.5 games out of the playoffs)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.9 (3rd in league) Bucks 106.4 (23rd in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (6th in league) Bucks 107.7 (15th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Bucks: Ramon Sessions, Charlie Bell, Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva, Dan Gadzuric

The Lakers Coming in: It has been frustrating, at a time that the Lakers should be gearing up and looking like a team serious about the playoffs, they continue to look like a team that is tired and bored. And the bench has lost all confidence.

Since the Lakers are pretty much locked in the number two overall spot (ahead of Boston/Orlando but behind Cleveland), it is time to try to get guys some rest. And at the top of that list is Kobe Bryant — Phil needs to sit him. Kobe hates that. Fans who pay money to see him hate that. But, as Reed said yesterday, his legs are tired and it is affecting his shot.

TRad pulled this together in the comments — Kobe’s recent games:

Phi 5/15
GSW 9/25
@Chi 10/25
@OKC 6/18
@Det 10/18 (the only game above 40%)
@NJN 5/19
@Atl 7/19
@Char 11/28

For those of you scoring at home, that’s 37.7% in his last 8 games. Kobe’s shot has gone flat, and that is not because of his hand, which has been injured all season when he was shooting well. It’s his legs.

Right now, what matters is getting the Lakers ready for the playoffs, and that means getting Kobe and Gasol a few breaks. A few games off.

The bad performances the last two games were on offense, the one area of the Lakers game that will bounce back the quickest. This is a great offensive team. It just needs a little rest and then the mojo will come back. It may be partway through the first round of the playoffs, but it will come back.

One more thing — resting the starters means more play for Farmar, Sasha and the bench. That, fans, is going to be frustrating as well if recent play is any indication. But that is the price for resting the starters, so be prepared to pay it.

The Bucks Coming in: It’s been a tough year for Bucks, who are now playing out the string. They are without Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd, which is to say they are without their offense.

Richard Jefferson has started the downside of his career, with everything seeming to slip a little this year, but he is still capable of a big game. Like the 29 and 10 he dropped on the Nets the other night.

Ramon Sessions will have Lakers fans saying “that is what we want in a backup PG” as he has some skills and tends to make good decisions in transition. Charlie Villanueva can make plays.

All in all, not a bad supporting cast. Just missing the stars. Which is why they are 3-7 in their last 10 and a few games out of the playoffs. With Redd or Bogut, they’d be in.

Keys to game Last meeting it was the Lakers starters who just crushed the Bucks, and the bench did its part and held the lead. That was against a Bucks team with Redd (who was plagued with foul trouble, however). The Lakers need to sit on Jefferson (your man, Ariza) because without him they have few halfcourt options left. The other half-court plays involve Sessions driving and trying to kick. You can’t leave Bell at the three-point line, he’s the one Buck left who can drain it.

The other key is not to let Sessions and company get out and run. The Nets got crushed by the Bucks because they turned the ball over and did not get back in transition. (Well, that and the Nets have really packed it in mentally.) The Lakers need to take care of the ball, take away the easy baskets.

On offense — attack the basket. The Bucks foul more than any team in the NBA, and in the last meeting the Lakers did drive and get fouled, and that’s why they were up by 20 going into the fourth. But, tired legs at the end of a road trip tends to mean pull up jumpers — that can’t happen. Get the ball inside to Gasol, don’t settle and get to the basket. Do and the Lakers can win this easily.

The Lakers should control the paint. Should.

Often the final game of a road trip is one you can write off, but after the last two games the Lakers cannot do that. They need the win here, they need a little confidence boost before a potential playoff foe in Houston on Friday. This is a winnable game, if the Lakers brought their heads with them.

Where you can watch: 5 pm start out West, on KCAL 9.