Dakota Schmidt and Nick Whalen answer some burning questions regarding tonights game against the Thunder.
ADVANCED – Entering Saturday, OKC is the 4 in the league in terms of overall total rebounding percentage at 52.4%. Meanwhile, our beloved Milwaukee Bucks are sitting last in the league with a total percentage of 45.9%. Explain the reasoning behind Milwaukee’s rebounding issues and how it could improve against a great team like Oklahoma City?
Nick Whalen: Obviously the absence of Sanders factors into Milwaukee’s rebounding woes, but even when he was in the lineup he wasn’t hitting the boards at a high rate. The starting duo of Pachulia and Udoh are physical but have difficulty on the boards against more athletic centers, while John Henson is yet to grab double-digit rebounds (though he’s also played over 30 minutes just once). Henson proved to be a volume rebounder last season when given the opportunity, but Larry Drew is yet to provide him substantial minutes. The key to rebounding against Oklahoma City will be keeping Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka off the offensive boards, as the Thunder are the league’s sixth-best offensive rebounding team. The Bucks rank 20th in offensive rebounds allowed (11.6 per game), and keeping track of Ibaka, especially, will be key given his expanding perimeter game.
Dakota Schmidt: As Nicholas just mentioned, Milwaukee’s front-court has been uneven at best since the start of the season because of the injury issues to Larry Sanders. As I mentioned in my Center preview from the offseason, Ekpe Udoh has been a rebounding black hole since he entered the league in 2010. While he’s still extremely raw, I could see the Greek Freak getting a bigger role tonight because of how his unique frame and agility matches up with Durant.
SCORING ISSUES – As you guys may know, Milwaukee suffered an embarrassing 104-77 defeat against Indiana. While it’s still relatively early in Larry Drew’s run with Milwaukee, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have issues with the way the offense is ran. What would you do to improve the overall structure of the offense?
Nick: Right now, the offense is clearly lacking an interior presence. That’s not to say Zaza Pachulia hasn’t played well, but his numbers have dropped off considerably from his impressive couple of games in the season’s first week. Milwaukee is relying heavily on jump shooting, and while Gary Neal and O.J. Mayo have been able to keep the team in games, it’s not a reliable strategy over a larger sample size (as evidenced by the 2-6 record).
Dakota: The fact that Milwaukee has only shot 50% from inside the restricted area is probably the biggest cause behind their scoring issues. OJ Mayo and to a lesser case Gary Neal have been solid perimeter options for Milwaukee, they still need to find away to be more efficient from the paint. Of the current front-court options, John Henson would seem to be the more polished offensive weapon but he hasn’t really had that opportunity because of his limited minutes (averaging 26.8 MPG).
PICK IT – As ugly as the Bucks defeat against the Pacers was, there’s always an opportunity for Milwaukee to redeem themselves in the next game. Could that redemption happen against the Thunder or will they lace up another defeat and drop to 2-7?
Nick: I really don’t see Kevin Durant and Co. allowing Oklahoma City to fall to a shorthanded Milwaukee team, even if it’s “country western” night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee doesn’t have anyone who check either Durant or Westbrook, and while it may remain close early on, OKC will put it away in the second half and send the Bucks to their fourth straight loss.
Dakota: I always try to be a hopeful Hank when it comes to the Bucks but the stomach-turning run by Milwaukee should continue against OKC.