Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports

Injury-Plagued Bucks Square Off Against Pelicans

Milwaukee will have its hands full with first-time All-Star Anthony Davis.

*Editor’s note: Tonight’s preview was written by Behind the Bucks Staff writer Peter Myhrer. Follow Peter on Twitter @TheKingOfChub.

After throwing away a solid three quarters of play with a dismal fourth quarter effort against the Boston Celtics on Monday night, the Bucks enter Wednesday’s match up with a lengthy injury report.

Caron Butler (ankle), Ekpe Udoh (knee), Larry Sanders (eye), and obviously Carlos Delfino (foot) are all ruled out of tonight’s contest.  Additionally, shooting guard O.J. Mayo is listed as out and has not seen game action since January 25th due to conditioning complications related to an illness. Rounding out the list as questionable is forward John Henson, who suffered a cringe-worthy roll of his right ankle after stepping on teammate Zaza Pachulia’s shoe in Monday’s loss to the Celtics. Initially listed as a game-time call, Ersan Ilyasova will start at power forward along side Pachulia.

This leaves the Milwaukee Bucks (9-42) with just nine healthy bodies headed into tonight’s first meeting of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans (22-29). These injuries will once again thrust veteran center Zaza Pachulia into a starting role; a role that he is not unaccustomed to in this injury plagued Bucks’ season. After a home opening night injury to starting center Larry Sanders, Zaza went on to start the next string of games until an injury of his own on December 4th put him on the bench until his recent return.

The Pelicans are no strangers to injuries themselves with forward Ryan Anderson (herniated disc), point guard Jrue Holiday (tibia), and center Jason Smith (knee surgery) all missing tonight’s contest.

 The Pelicans went out of their way this offseason to go and get playmakers to add to their blossoming superstar in Anthony Davis and their promising shooting guard Eric Gordon. They started by making a draft day trade of Nerlens Noel and their 2014 first round pick for Philadelphia’s all-star point guard Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans coupled that with a sign and trade for G/F Tyreke Evans. Their crunch time line up of Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson, Davis proved effective, but injuries to Holiday, Anderson, and Davis derailed their vision of earning a playoff spot. Consequently, the Pelicans currently reside in the 12th spot in a strong Western Conference.         Despite their subpar record overall, the Pelicans are 13-7 against the Eastern Conference and the short-handed Bucks will have their hands full tonight.

Worth Mentioning:

- Return of The Stiemsma: Pelicans center Greg Stiemsma will have the chance to return to his Wisconsin roots for the first time as a New Orleans Pelican. He played his high school days at Randolph High School in Randolph, Wisconsin and followed that up with some solid years as a Wisconsin Badger.

- Zaza Pachulia, Free Throw Master: Seemingly out of nowhere, Pachulia has developed into an elite free throw shooter, currently shooting at a 93.4% clip. His career free throw percentage is a much more modest 74.0%. Zaza is 17 free throws short of being able to qualify for the league leaders in free throw percentage, but his mark of 93.4% is currently the highest percentage in the NBA.

Key Matchup:

- Anthony Davis vs. ???: Pelicans’ center Anthony Davis is among the longest players in the league with a reported 7’6” wingspan. Bucks’ John Henson or Larry Sanders would counter his length well, but injuries to both will force Larry Drew to have to make a decision on who will have the responsibility of accounting for Davis on defense. Big bodies Zaza Pachulia and Miroslav Raduljica may struggle with his length and athleticism while Ersan Ilyasova is not exactly known for his defensive prowess. The longest guy at Drew’s disposal is rookie SG/SF Giannis Antetokounmpo and matching him up with Davis would certainly be a bold move.

Leaders:

Points: Davis (20.7), Knight (16.6)

Rebounds: Davis (10.3), Henson (8.0)

Assists: Holiday (7.9), Knight (4.8)

Blocks: Davis (3.1), Henson (2.2)

Projected Starters:

Pelicans:

PG – Brian Roberts

SG – Eric Gordon

SF – Al-Farouq Aminu

PF – Anthony Davis

C – Alexis Ajinca

Bucks:

PG – Brandon Knight

SG – Nate Wolters

SF – Khris Middleton

PF – Ersan Ilyasova

C – Zaza Pachulia

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Tags: Anthony Davis Brandon Knight Bucks Ersan Ilyasova John Henson Larry Sanders Milwaukee Bucks Nate Wolters OJ Mayo

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