Tonight at 8:30, the New Jersey Nets will be without Deron Williams as they face Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Drew Gooden, and the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center. The Bucks are quite literally playing to remain in the playoff hunt: if they lose, they will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
The Bucks are very desperate for a win tonight while the Nets will look to play spoiler just like they did versus the 76ers last Friday. Since the Knicks clinched a playoff seed earlier this week, the Bucks can only catch the 76ers to clinch a playoff seed. If the 76ers beat the Pacers tonight, they will clinch a playoffs seed and the Bucks will be eliminated. The Bucks and 76ers each have four games left to play this season, including tonight.
Update: If the 76ers win, the Bucks are not necessarily eliminated from the playoffs.
I attended the last matchup on 3/12 between the Bucks and Nets at the Prudential Center. It was a fairly boring game, save for thunderous dunks by Kris Humphries and Gerald Green. The Bucks won the game 105-99 behind 34 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists from Brandon Jennings and 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists from Drew Gooden. They were pretty good, but so was Kris Humphries. He had a career high 31 points and 18 rebounds and obliterated Ersan Ilyasova on multiple occasions. This was especially nice to see because Ilyasova scored 29 points and 24 rebounds in a game between these two teams on February 19th. Ilyasova (knee/quad) will not play tonight. This is somewhat unfortunate because the Nets will reportedly target Ilyasova this upcoming offseason and he plays at Humphries’ position. The Hump won’t get a chance to compete with Ilyasova tonight.
Update: Ilyasova is playing tonight. He will defend Humphries.
The Nets may need another incredible performance from the Hump to stay in the game tonight. The Nets have not beaten the Bucks since 2009 and all time, the Nets are only 23-51 playing in Milwaukee. Coach Avery Johnson might use these stats to motivate his team during halftime.
Sundiata Gaines vs. Brandon Jennings. Advantage: Jennings.
Sundiata stands no chance tonight. Jennings is a prolific scorer and Gaines is not even a backup quality point guard. Gaines is coming off a nice performance vs. the Knicks, but I still do not have high expectations for him tonight. He may be able to collect some steals, but not much else. Jennings should score over 20 points.
MarShon Brooks vs. Monta Ellis. Advantage: Ellis
This matchup should yield a lot of points. Neither Brooks or Ellis plays good defense and both can score in bunches. Ellis can score a lot more than Brooks, though, and Ellis should have at least 25 points.
Gerald Wallace vs. Carlos Delfino. Advantage: Wallace
Gerald Wallace will play in his second game since returning from injury. He was very energized and effective vs. the Knicks on Wednesday and should have another strong performance tonight. Delfino is a great three point shooter and should have a lot of open looks tonight because the Nets play terrible team defense. However, he won’t be able to defend or rebound with Wallace. I predict that Gerald Wallace will have a double double tonight.
Jordan Williams vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Advantage: Mbah a Moute
Mbah a Moute is a veteran who is very limited and Jordan Williams is a rookie who is even more limited. Mbah a Moute is a very solid defender and should keep J Will fairly silent tonight.
Drew Gooden vs. Kris Humphries. Advantage: None
I do not enjoy watching Drew Gooden play at all, but Nets fans will get a nice, sizable dose of Drew Gooden tonight. As we’ve seen in previous matchups this year, Humphries cannot guard Gooden, mainly because Gooden can shoot with range. On the other hand, Humphries can score on and rebound with whoever the Bucks assign to guard him. I fully expect Humphries to have a Hump double-double.
Note: I will be taking live game notes tonight.