April 6, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Charlotte Bobcats center Byron Mullens (22) fights for a rebound with Milwaukee Bucks forward Larry Sanders (8) during the first half at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview: Traveling to Sweet Carolina


After eking out a win against New Orleans and Anthony Davis, the number one overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, the Bucks travel to Charlotte to take on the newly improved Bobcats and number two overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Projected Lineups:

Bobcats: Kemba Walker, Jeffery Taylor, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Byron Mullens, Brendan Haywood
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Tobias Harris, Ersan Ilyasova, Samuel Dalembert

These aren’t your older brother’s Bobcats:  unlike last season’s incredibly moribund 7-59 troop, Charlotte has a 4-4 record this season under new coach Mike Dunlap.

After starting out the season with four games where they gave up 110 points per game on 50% field goal shooting, the Bobcat defense has tightened. In their most recent four games, Charlotte has only allowed 89 points per game on 37% shooting.

This game is what you call a ‘trap game’, no?

Seven-foot forward Byron Mullens has attempted 43 three-point shots and only nine free throws this season. The Bucks struggle defensively when opponents “go small” and utilize a three-point shooter at the nominal power forward spot.  While Mullens isn’t small, he could pose problems. Last year, he scored a career-high 31 points in a game against Milwaukee.

Bobcats guard and captain Gerald Henderson is set to return from a sprained foot relatively soon after missing a couple of weeks, but don’t expect to see him in this game.  Forward Tyrus Thomas is questionable with a left calf strain.

Ranking high

The Bucks sit at or near the top of the standings in a number of team and individual statistical categories. Positive ones, even!

Team statistics

Defensive rebounding rate:

The Bucks have rebounded 78.1% of their opponents’ misses this season, tops in the NBA.  The Cleveland Cavaliers — led by the rejuvenated Anderson Varejao — rank second at 75.9%  The league average is 73.0% and the Bobcats are the least efficient defensive rebounders at 67.6%.

That is not to say that rebounding against the Bobcats won’t be a challenge — they’re a top-5 offensive rebounding team that collects 30.2% of their own misses.

Pace: 

Milwaukee is still playing at the highest tempo of any NBA team this season: 95.9 possessions per game. Oddly, the Cleveland Cavaliers are again second.

Offense Four Factors Defense Four Factors
Team MOV ORtg DRtg Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA eFG% TOV% DRB% FT/FGA
Milwaukee Bucks 3.63 105.3 101.5 95.9 .496 13.6 25.9 .185 .499 16.0 78.1 .234
Charlotte Bobcats -3.25 101.9 105.4 92.9 .450 12.9 30.2 .215 .481 14.7 67.6 .234
League Average 0.00 104.0 104.0 92.2 .485 14.1 27.0 .211 .485 14.1 73.0 .211
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/19/2012.

 

As a team, the Bucks also rank second in assists per game and steals per game.

Individual Statistics

Steals per game:

Brandon Jennings leads the league comfortably at 3.2 steals per game.  Sure, he’s gambling on double teams to get many of them, but it’s a worthy risk in the right situations, i.e., when opponents turn their backs. The resulting transition opportunities have been golden for the Bucks through their first three weeks.

Fouls:

Despite playing only eight games (at a point in the season when most NBA teams have played 10 or 11), Larry Sanders leads the league in fouls with 40.  That’s an incredible 5.0 per game.  Of course, those fouls are completely worthwhile when he has transformed himself into one of the premier interior defenders in the game, challenging nearly every shot that opponents attempt in the paint.  It should be noted that Sanders is also second in the league in block rate, blocking 7.7% of shots taken while he’s in the game.

7.7% puts him right in the middle of a group that includes Serge Ibaka, DeAndre Jordan, and Javale McGee, who have collectively fallen for every pump fake ever west of the Mississippi River.  I wouldn’t trade Sanders for any of them

Scott Skiles deserves credit for managing Sanders’ minutes around the fouls.  Sanders is still playing 24.4 minutes per game and has been available near the end of every game.

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