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Game Day Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Milwaukee Bucks

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Game Day: Houston Rockets vs. Milwaukee Bucks

What a brutal four game stretch it has been for the Houston Rockets going 1-3 with losses coming to the Detroit Pistons, a Blake Griffin-less Clippers team and the Cavaliers playing on the second leg of a back to back. The one win came against the clown show Lakers which shouldn’t even count towards the win column because of how much of an atrocity Los Angeles has been. To make things worst, Houston gave up 140 points to the Clippers only to fly back home a day later and surrender another 123 points to a Pistons team that ranks in the bottom half of Offensive Efficiency scoring 102 points per 100 possessions (per ESPN.com).  Defense? Never heard of it.

On the other hand, the Milwaukee Bucks have bullied their way to a three game winning streak stealing lunch money and giving swirlies to Eastern Conference contenders such as the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats and Miami Heat. Unlike Houston, the Bucks have found success behind a suffocating defense holding Charlotte to 92 points and Miami to 79.

Houston enters this contest off one day of rest and will be up against a Milwaukee team coming off two with this being their third of a four game road trip. Both ball clubs seem to be heading in completely opposite directions. Can Houston bounce back from two gut wrenching performances? Or will the Bucks continue to …. buck? What the hell do Bucks do? Anyways, before you look that up, let’s dig deeper into this match up.

The Details

Venue: Toyota Center, Houston Tx

Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM Ct

TV: ROOT, Fox Sports Wisconsin

Radio: AM 620 WTMJ, 790 AM

Recent History

November 29th, 2014: Houston – 117 Milwaukee – 103

February 6th, 2015: Houston-117 Milwaukee -111

Walking Wounded

Milwaukee Bucks

Houston Rockets

Projected Starters

Bucks: Michael Carter Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe

Rockets: Ty Lawson, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Clint Capela

Paint Protectors

In retrospect, the off season acquisition of Greg Monroe was suppose to serve as an upgrade to what was already a stout defensive unit for the Bucks. Instead, the complete opposite has taken place. Milwaukee – a team who finished second in defensive efficiency last season behind the Golden State Warriors have now found themselves amongst the bottom feeders of the NBA ranking 28th allowing 105.9 points per 100 possession.

The Bucks employ a help heavy defense where they’ll overload the strong side leaving the weak side corner completely bare. Against any pick and roll action, expect a third Milwaukee defender to be extra aggressive on the help – eliminating the option of the roll man as soon as possible forcing the ball to be swung back onto the perimeter. Once the ball is swung out onto the perimeter, the Bucks then rely on their length, agility and IQ to close out on shooters while eliminating any open door to the basket.

In comparison, the Bucks are similar to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in terms of defensive philosophy. The Patriots run a 3-4 (three defensive linemen, four linebackers) formation with an emphasis of taking away the middle of the field and forcing opposing quarterbacks to complete throws outside of the numbers- which by nature is a tougher completion to make. Milwaukee will go to the ends of the earth to keep the basketball out of the middle (or the painted area) forcing teams to beat them from the perimeter – which again, by nature, a three point jumper is tougher to make than a layup.

Different sport, same philosophy. KEEP THE BALL OUT THE MIDDLE.

More from Rockets News

Bully Ball

Most of Milwaukee’s offensive possessions will start with Monroe at the elbow with the ball in his hands scanning the defense for any miscue’s on backdoor cuts. This action is due to the lack of shooting the Bucks have. Their in ability to shoot limits their offensive versatility which is attributed to their bottom tier ranking in offensive efficiency (21st per Teamrankings.com). Milwaukee’s only threat from 25 feet out is Khris Middleton. Outside of Middleton, the Buck’s resemble the Memphis Grizzlies offensively – bullying every living creature on it’s way towards the rim.

The Counter

Offensively, this can be a huge night for a player like Marcus Thornton. One of Harden’s most overlooked traits is his keen passing ability. Houston – a team that thrives off pick and roll action should see a ton of open looks from the corner once the third Milwaukee defender dives over from the weak side help. If Harden can get consistent penetration going towards the rim, the help happy Bucks defense will be forced to collapse onto Harden which will then free up shooters on the perimeter. The key to sustaining offensive success against this lengthy Bucks defense is being able to complete the initial skip pass to the weak side corner – which is usually Trevor Ariza or Corey Brewer. They then must not be tempted into settling for the shot but instead take advantage of the tough task their defender has of recovering from the strong side by driving towards the basket.

Defensively, packing the paint and limiting transition opportunities are the points of emphasis. Houston must take pride and man up. The Bucks are a young and athletic team that will rely on their strength and length to get to the rim for easy two’s. If Patrick Beverley isn’t able to go due to the ankle injury, I don’t see any chance Houston has of stopping Milwaukee’s offense without the services of Montrezl Harrel and K.J McDaniels – two tough nosed players who are aren’t afraid to mix it up inside. For the love of God please play K.J! PLEASE!

Prediction

The odds makers have Houston as favorites at home by 3 points with a total over/under of 207.5

The average home court advantage given to a team is about 2.33 points meaning if this game were to be played on a neutral site, the odds makers have both the Bucks and Rockets as dead even teams at the moment. I strongly disagree with this narrative as I stated earlier both teams are head in the two different directions.

With the recent acquisition of Josh Smith and trade rumors flying around involving multiple players, the distractions may weigh too heavily around a ball club that is trending down wards. The Bucks on the other hand have seem to find their rhythm on both ends of the floor – improving in both offensive and defensive efficiency in their last three. Milwaukee’s size and length will prove to be too overwhelming for a discombobulated Rockets team tonight.

Houston – 101
Milwaukee – 106

Next: Josh Smith Back to Houston Rockets

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series, as well as our Space City Scoop Round Table Sessions to help you get through the season. Start your morning with SCS Daily Rocket Science, which offers an update on the Rockets around the National and Social Media sites. Visit us throughout the day to stay on top of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

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