Feb 7, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash (13) defends Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings (3) during the first quarter at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Game 25 Preview: Milwaukee Bucks (10-14) at Toronto Raptors (8-18)

“We got paid a couple of days ago, and when you get paid, you gotta perform.”

— Scott Skiles, when asked about what he discussed at halftime, following the Bucks’ second-consecutive first half of 67 points allowed.

The Milwaukee Bucks stubbornly cling to the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference standings, despite losing three straight games.

The Bucks suddenly look like a team in desperate need of a lottery pick.  Last night, the Phoenix Suns feasted on the listless offense of Brandon Jennings and nonexistent pick-and-roll defense of Drew Gooden.

Tonight, the Bucks travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors.  If Jennings and Gooden put on a repeat performance, the Bucks could very well get leapfrogged by the Knicks and Cavaliers, who both sit 0.5 game behind Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Bucks will catch one break:  Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors’ lone elite player, will miss the game with a calf injury.

Offensive Efficiency:
Milwaukee: 102.3 (19th)
Toronto: 96.8 (28th)

Defensive Efficiency:
Milwaukee: 103.6 (18th)
Toronto: 103.7 (19th)

Pace:
Milwaukee: 92.3 (12th)
Toronto: 89.6 (24th)

Projected Lineups:
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Shaun Livingston, Carlos Delfino, Luc Mbah a Moute, Drew Gooden
Toronto: Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Aaron Gray

Box Score Advantage (That No Longer Exists): Defensive Efficiency

Last season, the Bucks had the fourth most efficient defense in the league allowing 102.5 points per 100 possessions.  The Raptors finished dead last, 30th in the league, with a 112.7 mark.

Now, in the 2011-12 season, both teams have landed in the middle of the pack.   It’s a dead heat with these two teams: the Bucks at 18th (103.6 per 100 possessions) and the Raptors at 19th (103.7).

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Matchup to watch: Brandon Jennings vs. Jose Calderon

Like Steve Nash, Jose Calderon has all the tools you look for when it comes to running an offense: works well off the dribble, consistent shooter, can drive and dish to get his teammates involved, etc…  Like Steve Nash, the shakiest facet of his game is defense.  Opposing point guards should challenge Calderon off the dribble whenever possible.

Last night, Jennings took a total of four shots.  His aggression was gone, and he made zero attempts to get to the rim, i.e., scouting report ignored.

Will Brandon Jennings take advantage?  Will he even make an attempt of it?

Bottom Line:

If the past three weeks are any indication, there is no bottom line with this Bucks team.

Tags: Brandon Jennings Drew Gooden Milwaukee Bucks Scott Skiles Stephen Jackson Toronto Raptors

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