Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everyone. The Sixers will celebrate in style, hosting the Milwaukee Bucks for a 2pm matinee. Can the Sixers continue their dominance against the league's also-rans? Let's take a look at what they need to do to push their record to 10-3.
The Bucks are one of the Jekyll and Hyde teams in the league. They're 4-0 at home, 0-7 on the road. At home, they beat the Spurs. On the road, they lost to the Bobcats, Kings and Suns. The priority is obviously to keep them win-less on the road.
Looking at their stats, a couple things jump out. The Bucks were one of the worst offensive teams in the league last season, and their remedy for that problem was to bring in an over-the-hill Stephen Jackson. A guy who was capable of submarining a team's offense when he was in his prime. Well, shockingly, the Bucks offense has improved. They're currently 22nd in the league, despite Jackson's 20% turnover rate and 25% usage rate. The big reason for their improvement on the offensive end is Brandon Jennings. His efficiency is way up and his turnovers are down. They're also getting really solid backup play at the point from Shaun Livingston. Pressuring the ball and making life difficult for MIL's PGs is going to be the primary focus of the defense. In fact, I'll take it a step further. Every time you get the ball out of their hands and make Jackson a playmaker, you've already won the defensive possession.
Rookie PF Jon Leuer has been a pleasant surprise for the Bucks, and he's pretty much the only big who's had an impact on the offensive end at all this season. Bogut has been downright terrible (45.9% TS) and Drew Gooden hasn't been much better (47.4% TS). Try to keep the shots in the hands of any forwards and centers not named Leuer and you should be just fine.
The most shocking thing about the Bucks has been their average defense. This may have something to do with Bogut missing five of the team's 11 games, but to see them as only the #16 defense in DFR is surprising. It seems like most of their problems stem from a high field goal percentage enjoyed by their opponents. Bogut is expected to play tomorrow, so I wouldn't take for granted that they won't be a formidable defensive squad.
Overall, I like this matchup for the Sixers. Jrue can handle Jennings, on both ends, and Stephen Jackson is the type of player who won't back down from a challenge, even when it's clearly in the best interest of the team that he do so. Here's my barometer, 15+ shots for Jackson = a double-digit win for the Sixers. Two guys to keep an eye on for the Bucks: Delfino and Ilyasova. They're both threats from three, Jodie hasn't done a good job of keeping tabs on shooters this year, and stretch fours always seem to get open looks against them.
Finally, I'd really like it if Jrue could put together a solid game today, mostly because when he has two bad games people are ready to run him out of town.
The tip is at 2pm. Game thread will land around noon. I'll be at the game, if you're going to be there, let me know in the comments and we'll hopefully meet up at the half outside section 114. Actually, if you're at the game in the upper level, you may get a seat upgrade at the half if you meet up.