With a rematch of last Wednesday's affair vs. the Milwaukee Bucks on tap for tonight, RaptorsHQ reaches out to SBNation's Bucks' blog, Brewhoop for the goods...
1. RaptorsHQ: The Bucks had a surprising start to the season but they seem to have cooled considerably. What were the reasons for the hot start and what has changed? Can it all be traced back to Jennings play falling back down to earth as of late?
Brewhoop: Certainly Jennings' ridiculous November was a major factor in the Bucks' 8-3 start, but they also had the benefit of one of the league's softest schedules. So part of it was fattening up on some weaker competition and part of it was Jennings playing above his head. Numbers-wise they were among the league's best in offensive rebounding as well but that has fallen off.
Overall I think a bit of the excitement was tempered by the assumption that they would start to take their lumps more as the season dragged on, but then again we were also hoping Redd could come back and be a useful player. And while we knew mean reversion would kick in for Jennings' shooting at some point, it was difficult to figure out just how much--his inability to make shots, particularly around the hoop, has been really frustrating over the past month and change. As a fan it's difficult because we really don't have a baseline for what to expect. Is he a guy that should be shooting 15-20 times a game?
2. RHQ: Talk about Carlos Delfino and how he has fit in with the team. Raps fans feel really good about that trade before the season kicked off acquiring Weems and Johnson. How do Bucks fans feel, in particular now that Roko has left the building?
BH: I wasn't a big fan of the trade and at this point I feel about the same. But I suppose it's all relative--it's not as though either team picked up a major impact player. Delfino's been hit or miss--he really bottomed out at the end of December and justifiably lost his starting spot, but has bounced back with some big games in January. I think he's useful as a rotation player, but the fact that he's started so many games doesn't say much about our depth at the 2/3 positions. I've also been disappointed with his lack of aggression at times, as he's seemed far too content to launch 28-foot threes even when he's in a bit of a slump.
I never figured Ukic would have much of a role this season, and with Jennings exploding out of the gate, Ridnour shooting exceptionally well, and both guys staying healthy there was never room for him in the rotation. His option for next season wasn't unreasonable, but all things considered I'm content to have the additional breathing room under the tax.
Watching Weems and Amir contribute is a bit frustrating because both guys bring the kind of athleticism that the Bucks really lack. Especially against a guy like Bosh you can see we have some issues in that department. Bogut is a good defensive center but can't keep up with a mobile, skilled 4 like Bosh. Meanwhile, Warrick isn't a good defender and Ilyasova is more of a scrappy, slightly undersized type. Not that Amir could have stopped Bosh on Wednesday either, but it would be nice to have an athletic, above-the-rim type in the 4/5 rotation.
3. RHQ: What are the keys to the game for the Bucks to ensure they secure a win against the Raps?
BH: Everything always starts with Bogut. You've probably heard about the Bucks' record when Bogut scores 17+ points (I think it's something like 12-1), and if you look at his splits in wins vs. losses it's rather stark. Without Bogut keeping teams honest in the post everything else kind of falls apart, since the rest of the roster is full of so-so jump-shooters. They don't have guys who can create shots, draw fouls and get cheap points, which has often hurt them late in games.
The Bucks have also been shooting the ball better from three of late, and as we saw on Wednesday that can be a big boost. They've been fairly inconsistent in the offensive rebounding department, but that is often a key for them because they shoot such a low percentage (thus creating lots of rebound opps) and don't get to the line. They also generally need to win the turnover department, again to create more possessions and limit opponent opportunities. For a top-10 defensive efficiency team, they surrender a fairly high opponent fg%, instead relying on turnover and defensive rebounding to limit attempts.
A big thanks to Frank from Brewhoop.com for the answers and be sure to check out Brewhoop.com tonight for live chat, and post-game analysis etc.
We'll be live-blogging tonight's match live from the Air Canada Center so be sure to drop by and chat all things Raps!