This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:30 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Wisconsin
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: The Thunder are having their most successful run of the season, and it doesn't look to stop any time soon. After some heroism from unlikely places (Nick Collison) and some expected wins against lesser teams, the Thunder are 4 games above .500, and have won their fifth in a row. It makes for a very different matchup than when we saw the Bucks last.
In short, the Bucks have fallen back to their place: the doldrums of the Eastern Conference. They were hyped up by the excellent play of rookie Brandon Jennings and the virtue of a weak schedule. But lately, they've been shut down by even the lesser teams, such as Charlotte, Washington, and Sacramento, while also getting shut out by the big boys, like Orlando and San Antonio. The reason hasn't been medical, as only Gadzuric and Alexander have been out of any extended period of time. Rather, they've just been another victim of early-season hype. Brandon Jennings isn't enough to fix a deeply flawed team. They appear strong on paper, but their team is devoid of defense, and all of their offensively-minded players force themselves into bad shots. It's a classic example of a team that has a roster filled with talent from the top to the bottom of the bench, but is just too one-dimensional to be practical. If I was the GM of Milwaukee, I'd be on the trade hotline, because many of Milwaukee's players have value, and those that don't can play well with the right teammates.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
The last time these two teams met, Andrew Bogut was out of commission, but Nenad Krstic still had trouble getting going. Even though Bogut is better than Gadzuric, I'd say that Krstic will find a way to make this game work offensively for him. Bogut will be willing to go toe to toe with Krstic in the mid-range area, but I think Krstic will find ways to sneak around him in the post, via back door plays and that sort of thing. Bogut will have a typically good scoring night.
It was a classic battle between these two last time, as they both scored well from inside the arc, both clanked a lot of threes, and both contributed a good amount of rebounds. This time, though, I'd expect Ilyasova to have the upper hand, because he's usually the better 3 point shooter. Green is a better defender, but I don't think it will matter a whole lot on the perimeter.
Last time Durant had a hell of a game against Delfino, and I wouldn't expect much to change tonight. Delfino is a serviceable defender, but he has nothing on Druants rebounding or distribution skills.
This isn't the Michael Redd of old, as a lot of his scoring duties have been passed off to Brandon Jennings. Nevertheless, he's a legitimate threat, so Thabo will have to keep his guard up. I predict that both players have pretty unremarkable games, mainly due to Thabo's defense. Thabo will clank a few threes.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Brandon Jennings
Last time, Russell Westbrook beat Brandon Jennings in every category except steals. I don't expect that trend to continue. Brandon Jennings is a bit more experienced and accustomed to play in the NBA now, and I think he'll be a bit more selective with his shots this time, while also having the option of passing it to Bogut down low. Jennings will win by a bit, but it won't be enough to propel his team to victory.
Battle of the Benches:
Having no Dan Gadzuric certainly hurts the Bucks, as they have to rely on 37 year old Kenny Thomas for backup center duties. Otherwise, the Bucks have a rather powerful bench, with backups just about as good as the starters before them. I'd say they edge out our bench by a slight margin, but don't discount the fact that James Harden will probably be a huge factor.
Coaching and Intangibles:
The Thunder are on a huge win streak, and the Bucks are on a huge loss streak. Need I say more? The bucks are at home and have some great fans, but I don't think it's enough to propel them to victory.
The Bucks haven't been able to beat anybody lately, and I don't think it's going to start with the Thunder. We destroyed them by a significant margin last time, and even though they have Andrew Bogut, this is still a very winnable game.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 109, Milwaukee 99
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I might be here during the game to drop my thoughts as well. Go Thunder!