Basketball, basketball, basketball!
The Milwaukee Bucks tip-off the first of their eight preseason games tonight in Canton, Ohio against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are coming off a 91-85 win in their opener against Montepaschi Siena last night. The game will be available locally on WSSP 1250 with Ted Davis handling the play-by-play duties; however, none of the Bucks’ preseason games will be carried on local TV. Four games will be televised by their opponents, leaving open the possibility of seeing them via satellite or other means.
Cleveland: Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao
Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Tobias Harris, Ersan Ilyasova, Samuel Dalembert
Three Things to Watch For:
1) Defense from the Bucks’ perimeter starters. If there has been one issue where Scott Skiles has been less than glowing when assessing his team to this point, it has been in regard to the defense of Brandon Jennings and Tobias Harris. Throw in the fact that pundits around the league question Monta Ellis as a legit defender at the 2-guard spot and there are question marks all the way around the perimeter.
Tobias gets a gentle opener in Alonzo Gee. Gee, though talented, still sits below the median among NBA starting small forwards. Jennings, on the other hand, gets thrown to the fire against Kyrie Irving. Irving scored 10 points on 1-7 shooting from the field against Siena while looking rusty in his first game back from a broken hand — one he sustained by punching a padded wall. If Jennings can keep Irving out of rhythm for a second game, Skiles will surely be pleased.
2) The Non-Guaranteed Players: With Doron Lamb out, the Bucks have only three guards among their core 15 players under guaranteed contracts. While Jennings and Monta can be expected to carry a big load during the regular season, don’t expect them to be shouldering big loads in October — especially in the first game out. If Eddie Gill, Orien Greene, Mustapha Farrakhan, or UW’s own Alando Tucker are going to make a lasting mark on the team, they will need to begin tonight. Skiles is sure to give one or more of them the opportunity to do so.
3) Pace: Doesn’t it seem like every team comes out of training camp preaching the virtues of pace? Then reality hits and the game bogs down. In the Bucks’ case, they really do need to emphasize speed since it plays to the strengths of their diminutive backcourt. They will get a chance tonight against a Cavaliers team that scored just two fast break points in their preseason opener — a chance that starts with owning the defensive glass. Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson are very good offensive rebounders, so for the Bucks, setting the pace starts with boxing those two out.