The Milwaukee Bucks already know what it’s like to play a road game against Chicago. They played one earlier this month — in the Bradley Center.
Tonight, the Bucks go to Chicago to play their last game before the All-Star break. Derrick Rose is expected to play. After sitting out nearly two weeks with an injured back, Rose returned Tuesday to score 23 points in 35 minutes in a win over Atlanta.
On February 4th, Chicago gave the Bucks their soundest defeat of the season. The Bulls — spurred on by a crowd that appeared to be 70% Chicago fans — raced out t0 a 67-43 halftime lead on their way to an easy victory. The only sore spot for Chicago on that night was the initial occurrence of Rose’s back spasms.
Milwaukee: 102.7 (18th)
Chicago: 107.8 (3rd)
Milwaukee: 104.5 (19th)
Chicago: 97.6 (2nd)
Milwaukee: 91.9 (13th)
Chicago: 89.9 (21st)
Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings, Shaun Livingston, Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, Jon Leuer
Chicago: Derrick Rose, Ronnie Brewer, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah
Box Score Advantage: All of them?
By the efficiency rankings, the Bulls have the league’s second-best offense and third-best defense. With the exception of Richard Hamilton, they should have a full complement of players.
The Bucks, on the other hand, are something of a mess. They have fallen to 10th place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Drew Gooden and Tobias Harris — who combined to score 43 of the Bucks’ 90 points in the last game against Chicago — are likely out with injury. According to Gery Woelfel, Gooden is seeking a second opinion on his ailing wrist. And in shootarounds, Tobias hasn’t been able to lift his arms high enough to attempt a shot, so perhaps the All-Star break is coming at the right time for him. The Bucks’ next game, in which they will play the Wizards, is not be until Tuesday night.
Matchup to watch: Brandon Jennings vs. Derrick Rose
Isn’t this always the key matchup when these two teams play? If the Bucks want to have a fair shot at winning, Jennings cannot lose the first quarter to Rose — like he did in their last matchup.
A couple of items to watch:
Will the NBA name a replacement for Joe Johnson today? If they add Rajon Rondo or Josh Smith over Jennings, will that effect his psyche tonight (for better or for worse)?
Will Rose play healthy tonight? Coach Thibodeau can’t reasonably rest Derrick tonight and then play him over the weekend in an exhibition. But perhaps he will limit his minutes, even if it goes against every fiber of his being.
Bottom Line: If the Bucks get their 20th loss of the season before its midway point, it will be hard to see them making a push past two of the three teams in their way (Knicks, Celtics, Cavaliers). Expect the Bucks to play an emotional game tonight IF they survive the Bulls’ opening salvo.