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Clippers-Bucks Preview: Buck Hunting

Having won 5 of the last 6, the Clippers head into Milwaukee to take down a young Bucks team still trying to find its legs.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 NBA Regular Season
Los Angeles Clippers (12-9)

Milwaukee Bucks (9-13)
December 9, 2015 — 5:00 PM PDT
BMO Harris Bradley Center — Milwaukee, WI
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
12-9 Record 9-13
2-2 East 7-10
10-7 West 2-3
3-3 Division 2-3
9-5 Home 7-4
3-4 Road 2-9
4-6 .500+ 2-8
8-3 .500– 7-5
0-0 OT 1-0
6-4 L10 4-6
Projected Starters
Chris Paul PG O.J. Mayo
J.J. Redick SG Khris Middleton
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Blake Griffin PF Jabari Parker
DeAndre Jordan C Greg Monroe
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
99.6 (11th) Pace 95.3 (29th)
104.1 (5th) OffRtg 99.7 (21st)
101.8 (18th) DefRtg 105.1 (26th)
2.3 (11th) NetRtg -5.4 (25th)
Injury Report

Greivis Vasquez (ankle) questionable

Jerryd Bayless (ankle) out
'14-'15 Season Series (Clippers tied Bucks 1-1)
Clips Nation Recap
NBA Box Score
Bucks 111, Clippers 106
Box Score
Los Angeles
Clippers 106, Bucks 102
Box Score

The Big Picture:

Many feel that the NBA season doesn't begin in earnest until Christmas. That's a good thing for the Clippers, who, despite having won 5 of 6, are in the midst of some light chaos. The starting backcourt is ailing, and even though Chris Paul and JJ Redick returned to action Monday night in Minnesota, neither looked sharp. The rotation is still unsettled as Coach Doc Rivers shuffles through his many cards in search of a winning hand. GM Doc Rivers may be doing some shuffling too. Yahoo reported on Monday night that the Clippers have gauged league-wide interest in Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith. Whether your reaction to that news was meh or WTF probably depends on how seriously you think the Clippers are shopping two of their most heralded and most recent acquisitions. Either way, it's clear that this team is far from being a finished product, although with Golden State and San Antonio pulling away from the Western Conference, and Oklahoma City thus far underperforming its strong point differential, the Clippers may be closer to their finished playoff-seeding than we might like.

The Antagonist:

Many people had high expectations for this Bucks squad that was coming off an earlier-than-expected playoff appearance. It helped that Milwaukee had a productive summer, signing star big man Greg Monroe, welcoming young scorer Jabari Parker back from injury, and introducing new green and cream jerseys that have immediately joined the class of the league. One quarter of the way into the season, those expectations have given way to disappointment. The Bucks currently sit 13th in the East with a point differential nearer the NBDL team masquerading as the Sixers than the 12th-place Knicks. This Bucks team is not good offensively or defensively, and it's the latter that's the real surprise. Despite the addition of the plodding Monroe, it was fair to expect better from Coach Jason Kidd and a versatile, athletic, and loooooooong-armed young core that finished 2nd in defensive efficiency last year, right between the vaunted Warriors and Spurs. Adding to their plight is a recent spate of injuries and an improved conference that has passed them by. .500 teams don't stroll into the 7th or 8th seeds anymore. For the Bucks, they shouldn't be strolling anywhere, they should be running, especially on defense, if they are to get where they want to go.

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of Key Metrics. Tonight will be a contrast in tempos.The Clippers rank 11th in pace. The young and leggy Bucks are a headscratching 29th. Can the Clippers prod Milwaukee into running a little more?
  • Schedule. The Clippers should save their legs, because they'll be right back at it tomorrow night in Chicago for a national game on TNT. They finish this 5-game roadie with tilts in Brooklyn on Saturday and Detroit on Monday before welcoming the Bucks to LA a week from today.
  • Rotation games. The defensively solid but thoroughly unexciting Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has gotten the starting small forward nod for the past five games, but his minutes are decreasing. He's played just 27 minutes over the past two games. Of the Clipper lineups that feature the core four (Paul, JJ, Blake, and DeAndre), the lineup with Mbah a Moute is second worst. Only the lineup with Paul Pierce is worse, although oh boy is it a lot worse. The best lineup by far has been the four starters with Lance Stephenson, which is averaging an impressive +19 net rating in nearly 150 total minutes. #freeLance #freeFreeLance
  • Bucks' Rotation. Coach Jason Kidd has recently opted for Jerryd Bayless (currently injured) and now O.J. Mayo as a starter over point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams has hardly seen a dip in minutes, but has helped the Milwaukee bench thrive against opposing reserve units. Former 2nd-overall pick Jabari Parker was also temporarily moved to the bench, but has started the past two games.
  • For the Bucks' point of view, head over to Brew Hoop.
  • The rest. The Clippers and Bucks haven't played one another since December 2014... Trends at war: the Bucks are 7-4 at home but just 2-8 against winning teams overall... The Clippers shot 19 free throws in the last 22 seconds of Monday's game in Minnesota. As I'm recapping tonight's game, can we not do that again? Thanks in advance.