It’s 1:30 AM on an early Saturday morning as I write this preview on a brand new brown recliner and I’m unusually excited about tomorrow’s game against the Miami Heat. Sure I always get excited to sit down to watch the Bucks play, but this game is different. Simply because it has that weird Ivan Drago vs. Rocky Balboa feel about it, but there’s still a strange optimism in my heart that some may consider idiotic but I’m holding out hope as a Bucks fan that we can beat the odds for one night and be the victorious team when the final buzzer rings at the end of the fourth quarter.
I know that last paragraph was a little too poetic but tonight’s match-up between the Miami Heat (20-7) and the Milwaukee Bucks (15-12) is probably one of the most important games for the Bucks so far this season because they’re going to be looking to prove to not only to the Heat or the Bucks fans at the BMO Harris Bradley Center but also to the rest of the NBA universe that they have what it takes to be one of those upper-tier playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. Before you call shenanigans on me, remember that the Bucks are currently the 5th seed in the East and are a half game behind the Pacers for the top spot in the Central division so while a victory against this Heat team seems unlikely but it would do wonders for the Bucks as they leave 2012 and enter 2013.
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Marquis Daniels, Luc Mbah a Moute, Larry Sanders
Heat: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem
The last time these two teams met on November 21st in Miami was an instant classic. The Heat appeared to have blown the Bucks out of the water in the first half but the Bucks clawed back to actually take a lead early in the fourth quarter. The Heat came back with a vengeance to force overtime and ended up dominating that overtime period, beating the Bucks 113-106 in a game that still disappoints Bucks fans everywhere — even if that appeared to be a breakout game for rookie John Henson who for some reason is currently buried on the Bucks bench.
Since that match-up, Larry Sanders has proven himself as a legitimate starting center in this league and Luc Mbah a Moute has returned from injury — two huge aspects when you try to preview tonight’s game. While Chris Bosh is currently as strong as he’s ever been with the Heat with a 21.6 PER and a .546 FG% he’s still an average defender so I think Larry Sanders will be a solid offensive performer and probably even block a handful of shots because well he is Larry Sanders and that’s just what he does. Meanwhile having Mbah a Moute for tonight’s game is huge for the Bucks for the simple fact that he’s likely going to be guarding two offensive powerhouses in LeBron or Bosh. While both of those guys are still going to get their points, Luc is still a workhouse on defense so he’s still going to cause those guys trouble through out the entire game.
The main match-up I’m most looking forward to would have to be the shooting guard battle between Monta Ellis and Dwyane Wade. Monta is currently on a little bit of a hot-streak, averaging 28 PPG after that god awful showcase against the Grizzlies on national television. The main reason I’m so interested in these two guys facing off against each other is because I want to see how Dwyane Wade can handle the quicker and younger Monta Ellis driving to the basket. Now Wade is still a star player, but you can easily tell he’s slowed down a step or two due to age and his career-long battle with different nagging injuries so I’m curious to see how Wade is going to try to stop Ellis from making his way to the basket.
Yes, the Heat are a better team than the Bucks but I do think the Bucks do match up very well against this Heat team. Of course, they still have a 37-year-old silent assassin named Ray Allen, who could hit that silky smooth three-point jumper with the greatest of ease. Will he hit one tonight that puts a knife in the heart of the team that still loves him to this day?