Bucks (31-39) vs. Portland Trailblazers (43-26) @ Bradley Center, 7:30pm Saturday, FSN
The Bucks close out their longest homestand of the season Saturday, needing a win over All-Star Brandon Roy and the Blazers to even the stand at 3-3. Do the Bucks need a victory to stay in the race for the 8th seed in the East? No, but if they don’t put a streak together soon, the Bucks playoff hopes will die before Andrew Bogut has a chance to return.
Let’s call the Blazers game a must-win, an opportunity to bounceback from Wednesday’s drubbing at the hands of Dwight Howard and the Magic. The Bulls play the Lakers Saturday in Chicago.
Milwaukee’s the last stop on the Blazers 5-game road trip and their 3rd game in four nights. The Blazers split the first four, being blown out in Atlanta, winning in Memphis and Indiana, then losing Thursday night to the Cavs in OT. Portland’s playing well but Saturday’s a decent chance to jump a traveling West team at the BC (a la the victory over Denver last month.) A winnable game, like any other.
The team that wins the final playoff spot in the East will be the team with the toughest, most consistent mindset. Coach Scott Skiles is looking for these intangibles out of his Bucks. He also called on the veterans to lead, and though he didn’t mention Richard Jefferson by name, that means RJ (12th in the NBA in minutes played) the player Skiles has played more than any other:
“We totally need leadership right now. We need our veteran players to set the tone as far as being mentally ready and carrying us professionally. … I’m just talking being mentally ready. Knowing their job, knowing what they’re supposed to do, knowing the game plan, executing the game plan, competing all the time.”
The Blazers start two former Bucks — point guard Steve Blake and center Joel Przybilla, which is interesting enough. It’ll be the 2nd straight game in which the opponent’s starting point guard is a former Buck (Rafer Alston for Orlando Wednesday). Prz has become a mentor of sorts for rookie Greg Oden, who missed 15 games Feb-March getting his knee full strength for the playoff push.
The question of who should start at center for the Blazers seems to be settled, and one truth remains: The Oden-zilla frontcourt eats up a lot of space in the paint… Rebounding will be a key. And Luc Mbah a Moute, Charlie Bell and Keith Bogans will have their hands full slowing down Roy and gunner Rudy Fernandez off the Portland bench.
Energee! is losing big to the Pacemates in the NBA dance bracket. So far the only matchup that has been as one-sided is the Thunder Girls 76-24% landslide over the Suns Dancers yesterday.
The fan support for the Thunder makes sense: there’s a lot of excitement in OK City over the old Sonics, and their marketing staff has fun working the buzz of being a new team in a new city. And I’m sure those cowgirls (at right) don’t mind kissing a cowboy or two to help the cause.
But the Pacemates? Nothing new about the Pacers. Plus, they’ve lost 4 straight and the playoff train just left Indy. Not much for fans to get excited about there.
The voting started Thursday at 1pm. I received an email reminding me to vote and offering up a link to the swimsuit pics of Energee! at 1:14PM. By then the rout was on.
I’m not sure what this means in terms of Bucks marketing (or lack thereof) but there’s still an hour or two left to vote. Polls closed at 1pm (Friday). 80-20%, Pacemates.
Devin Harris out for the season: Thanks go to JTF on our Bucks message board for posting this. I kinda stopped tracking the Nets after they lost in LA to the Steve Novak Clippers. That’s right, the Steve Novak Clippers. The man can shoot. But then the Nets went out and beat the Knicks without Harris Wednesday. Bucks (1-2 vs. Nets) play their 4th Nets game this season March 30 in New Jersey.
Gerald Wallace is one bad mudder-fu..: The mental toughness Skiles wants out of his Bucks can be found in Charlotte, which should give Larry Brown’s team an edge in the race for 8th. Against the Kings Wednesday, forward Gerald Wallace refused medical attention for a bashed knee, refused to go the hospital for an MRI and then played on it in the ‘Cats 104-88 win. That’s bad-a**. The ‘Cats seem to be channeling Brown’s 2001 Sixers.
9th place, one game behind the Bulls and 1/2 ahead of the 10th place Bucks? “We can do this,” ‘Cats fans are saying. That’s right, the Bucks find themselves in 10th Saturday after the ‘Cats (31-38) won in Toronto Friday.
Then on Saturday in Charlotte, the Bobcats were blown out by Jarrett Jack and the Pacers, who played without starting point guard TJ Ford. Gotta love this Eastern Conference race. So if the Pacers aren’t going to lay down, this could get interesting. They play the Bulls twice in the next seven days.
On the other hand the Bulls don’t seem to be in a mood to cooperate.