Feb. 15, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings (3) attempts to control the ball as New Orleans Hornets guard Xavier Henry (4)defends at the Bradley Center. New Orleans defeated the Milwaukee 92-89. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview: Hornets Aren't a Gimme

The Bucks are on a two-game win streak and sitting at the top of the Central Division with a 5-2 record that includes a win over the faltering Pacers and one over Boston’s perennial playoff entrants. Not too shabby, right?

Milwaukee should be able to handle a rebuilding, 3-4 New Orleans Hornets squad. You know this, I know this and everyone that plays home games in the BMO Harris Center does, too. But Admiral Ackbar’s seen this before.

It’s a classic will-they-won’t-they game and, if Brandon Jennings and Co. look too far ahead, it could be a trap.

Projected Lineups:

Hornets: Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Tobias Harris, Ersan Ilyasova, Samuel Dalembert

The Hornets are cellar dwellers when it comes to offensive efficiency, which bodes well for a Bucks team ranked in the top five for defensive efficiency. New Orleans is coming off a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but their worst loss on the season came against Philadelphia — the two teams’ only common opponent thus far — to the tune of a 15-point divide, with the partially-unibrowed crew scoring just 62 points.

But it hasn’t been all bad. Tonight’s visiting team showed life in four-point losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, respectively. Greivis Vasquez is dishing 8.8 assists per game, good for  a top-15 rate, and he is giving his teammates plenty of opportunities to make buckets. However, he’s also averaging 2.8 turnovers per game and matching up against the league’s steals leader. While Jennings’ defense has been shaky in the past, there’s a chance he feasts tonight.

Things could be tougher for Monta Ellis, though. He draws rookie Austin Rivers, who has not shown a scoring prowess yet, but is averaging less than one TO and 2.8 blocks per game.

Not good for an undersized guard who hasn’t entirely exited an early season slump.

Offense Four Factors Defense Four Factors
10 Milwaukee Bucks 3.57 1.96 102.9 99.2 95.9 .491 14.0 24.3 .184 .486 15.6 78.4 .229
21 New Orleans Hornets -3.00 -2.11 101.4 104.8 89.0 .468 14.0 27.2 .213 .488 13.2 73.2 .162
League Average 0.00 0.00 103.8 103.8 92.3 .484 14.0 27.0 .211 .484 14.0 73.0 .211
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/17/2012.

The Hornets’ front-court does most of the team’s scoring. Ryan Anderson leads the team with 16 ppg off the bench, with Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu — who work just as hard on the defensive side of the ball — tallying slightly lower figures. Larry Sanders will have his work cut out for him if he’s the only Bucks big man that shows up to play.

As a whole, though, the Bucks are playing better basketball than their bayou counterparts. Milwaukee’s relatively thin margin of victory and the Hornets’ -3 (pre-Thunder loss) MOV statistic is little cause for concern, as the Bucks’ proficiency at nabbing defensive rebounds and faster pace of play will allow them more chances to score. Given their higher offensive rating and the Hornets’ nearing-league-average defensive rating, the Bucks should do just that.

If he forces turnovers, Jennings could turn multiple possessions into foot races. He and Ellis could both turn it into a shootout. The small sample size of games this season says advantage: Bucks. But don’t check the ‘W’ column until the game is actually finished.

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Tags: Brandon Jennings Milwaukee Bucks

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