Monta Ellis and Jerry Stackhouse
After a Christmas massacre at the hands of the Boston Celtics yesterday, the Brooklyn Nets (14-13) head out on the road to face the up-and-down Milwaukee Bucks (14-12). The Nets have only won 3 of their past 12 games and are currently playing some of their worst basketball of the season, especially on offense. The Bucks haven’t played since Saturday, when they lost at home to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. They are 3-3 in their last 6 games.
The last time these teams met, the Bucks won easily in Brooklyn, 97-88, and it wasn’t even that close. The Nets were blown out of the game in the first half and trailed by 17 points at halftime. In that game, the Nets were unable to stop the Bucks’ guards, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, who combined for 50 points and 12 assists. In fact, the Nets have really struggled against Milwaukee in recent years. They have a 12-game losing streak vs. the Bucks and haven’t beaten them since 2009. Not only do they have that losing streak, but most of the games haven’t even been close. The Nets haven’t gotten within 6 points of Milwaukee in any of those games.
This will be an important game in the eastern conference standings. The Nets are tied for 7th place with Boston while Milwaukee is a 1/2 game better than them in 6th place. The Nets can leapfrog the Bucks in the standings with a win.
Another storyline to watch in this game is how Ersan Ilyasova plays. There have been rumors that the Nets are interested in acquiring him and taking on his big contract. If the Bucks were to make that trade, they would likely get back Kris Humphries who will not be playing in this game. Ilyasova has been a Nets killer in the past but is having a pretty terrible season and is now buried in the depth chart. He probably won’t get very many minutes in this game.
Injuries: Kris Humphries will not travel with the Nets to Milwaukee for this game because he has been having some abdominal pains. For the Bucks, Beno Udrih is still out with a sprained ankle. Both teams are pretty healthy.
Deron Williams vs. Brandon Jennings. Advantage: Jennings
Even though the Bucks have a less flashy and well-known backcourt than the Nets, they have been playing better this season. Jennings is having another pretty good season, although he has had some similar problems to Deron Williams. Like Williams, he is shooting under 40% from the field. Still, he has had some very good games against the Nets in the past and I am expecting another strong game from him tonight. Deron Williams is coming off a 10-point game against Boston and is probably playing the worst basketball of his career. His body language on the court has been terrible and so have his stats.
Joe Johnson vs. Monta Ellis. Advantage: Ellis
Like Jennings, Ellis has also shot under 40% from the field this season, but is still averaging nearly 20 ppg and is coming off of a season high 37 in his last game vs. Cleveland. Ellis is also one of the best passing shooting guards in the NBA and is averaging over 5 apg and is a good rebounder for a guy who is only 6’3. Joe Johnson is coming off of one of his worst games as a Net, although he has been playing better recently.
Keith Bogans vs. Marquis Daniels. Advantage: Daniels
Bogans has recently been moved back into the starting lineup. He will hit open 3’s and not do much else. Marquis Daniels has moved into a starting role with the Bucks this month, but shouldn’t play much more than 20 minutes. Mike Dunleavy will also get plenty of playing time at the small forward position. None of these players will make a big impact in the game.
Gerald Wallace vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Advantage: Wallace
Mbah a Moute is averaging a career high 10 ppg this season for the Bucks. However, he is not fast enough to keep up with Gerald Wallace, who should have a big game. Wallace often shows up when the Nets are trailing in the second half. They need him to show up in the beginning of the games too giving the same effort as he usually does at the ends of games. Yesterday, Wallace tried to bring the Nets back into the game vs. the Celtics but came up short mainly because he was not getting any help from any of his teammates.
Brook Lopez vs. Larry Sanders. Advantage: Lopez
This is a matchup between two of the most surprising shot blockers of the NBA season. Sanders is #1 in the NBA with 3.1 bpg, while Lopez is 6th with 2.4 bpg. However, Lopez is the much better offensive player. The question for him will be if he can score against Sanders, a good defender, mainly because of his shot blocking. The first time these teams met up this year, Sanders blocked 4 shots, but Lopez did not play in that game.
Prediction: Bucks 84, Nets 77.
This is a very bad matchup for the Nets, who are not playing well at all right now and I expect the Bucks to win this game. They have gotten much better guard play than the Nets have this year and are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. The Nets are very out of rhythm offensively, which is good news for Milwaukee. As long as the Bucks can get solid offensive contributions from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, they should be able to win this game pretty easily.