Pump Up Music: Pennywise -- "Bro Hymn"
The Big Picture: The Milwaukee Bucks are on the cusp of two different eras in franchise history. The last era might be characterized the Michael Redd Period. In Redd's rookie season, George Karl directed a Ray Allen-led team to within a game of the NBA Finals, losing to Allen Iverson's 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. After that series, Karl seemed to lose the team, Ray Allen was traded to Seattle in a year and a half, the team hovered around .500 some years and their record plummeted others, Redd became the team's go-to scorer, and the coaching carousel began. In the midst of all that, the Bucks drafted Andrew Bogut, a guy who's not going to be the best player on a championship team, but could certainly be the second or third best player.
Last year, they brought in Scott Skiles, decidedly a bit of a hardass as a coach. His clock is ticking--he has a limited amount of time until enough players grow weary of his schtick--but until the horn goes off, he's going to get results.
This year, they drafted Brandon Jennings, he of the 55-point game against the Warriors. Obviously, it's early in his career, and almost anything can happen, but do take note of the players who have scored 55 points or more in a game in the past twenty years. Glen Rice and Jerry Stackhouse are probably the worst players in the group, so Jennings has that going for him.
Also this year, Redd has been wracked with injury, again. He has a player option for next season, which he'll almost certainly exercise, but he'll never be the go-to scorer again and had better be prepared to enter the latter-day Michael Finley stage of his career. The Brandon Jennings Era is beginning.
Key to Victory: Redd is out, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has a sprained foot and is expected to miss tonight's game, and Bogut has a calf injury and is out. They'll miss Bogut in the middle, because Dan Gadzuric is his replacement, but they're reasonably prepared to handle the others' absences with Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, and Hakim Warrick at forward, Jennings taking on more of a scoring role from point guard, playing alongside Luke Ridnour at times, and Jodie Meeks getting some minutes.
All that's to say that the Cats' main matchup advantage will probably be when the Bucks go smaller, because Charlotte has the ability to keep up with smallball teams on defense while overpowering them on offense. When Ridnour and Jennings are in the game together, by all means Stephen Jackson should challenge Jennings on the block and try to shoot over him; S-Jax can be as S-Jax as he wants at those times, if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, on defense, Jackson doesn't have the sheer quickness Jennings does, but he can certainly cause him problems with his size and defensive acumen. Outside the box, you might take advantage of the Cats' positional flexibility and put Gerald Wallace on Jennings in those situations, with Jackson on Delfino, but that's probably overthinking things a bit.
If you shoot threes, you'd better make them.
Get to the line, and make them.
Detail That Might Interest .08% of You: Jennings's teammate in Italy for a few games: Primoz!