Milwaukee Bucks (11-12 SU, 14-9 ATS) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-7 SU, 13-13 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Friday, December 18, 2009, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bucks +10/Cavaliers -10
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Not too long ago, the Milwaukee Bucks were in first place in the Central Division and were looking like the surprise team this season in the NBA. But now the Bucks have lost nine of their last 12 games, have fallen under .500, and are now 6.5 games backs from the Cleveland Cavaliers, who stand in first place. About a week ago, the Cavs looked like they weren’t the same dominant team as last season, but they’ve won four games in a row and are back to looking good again.
The Bucks and Cavs faced off in Milwaukee on December 6, and the Cavs won that game, 101-86. The Cavs had a true team effort with no starter scoring more than 14 points and no player attempting more than 11 shots. J.J. Hickson, of all players, was the one who attempted 11 shots and finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. LeBron James attempted only 10 shots and finished with 14 points and 10 assists. The 10 field goal attempts and four makes were the lowest in both categories for LeBron since January 2, 2009. Delonte West led the Cavs in scoring off the bench with 21 points. Anderson Varejao also had a big game off the bench with 12 rebounds. In fact, the Cavs bench carried them in that game, as Varejao and Zyndrunas Ilgauskas each had a +31 +/- rating, and in comparison Shaquille O’Neal (10 points, one rebound) had a -18 +/- rating.
As usual, Brandon Jennings led the Bucks in scoring in that game with 24 points. Hakim Warrick and Carlos Delfino were the only other Bucks in double figures, each scoring 11 points.
The Bucks did a great job in that game of shutting down LeBron. The credit for that goes to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Delfino for playing terrific defense on him. The Bucks didn’t do a great job getting a hand up on the jumpers for the others Cavs shooters (6-for-10 from 3-point range), and the Bucks didn’t shoot well themselves. They shot 37 percent overall and 4-for-20 from beyond the arc. To win this time around, the Bucks will have to do just as well defending LeBron but they will have to shoot the ball much better. The Cavs also shot a remarkable 25-for-27 from the free throw line and they did all of the little things, including winning the rebounding battle and committing less turnovers.
Jennings is only a 20-year old rookie, but the point guard has been carrying the Bucks all season long, averaging 20.7 points and 6.0 assists per game. But the Bucks need more than Jennings to step up in order to win tough games. Michael Redd just came back from an injury in the last week and his presence and health is a key for the Bucks. He had 25 points and seven rebounds against the Lakers on Wednesday. Andrew Bogut also has to step up for the Bucks because he is pretty much their whole inside game. Bogut is averaging 15.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
The Cavs have won four games in a row over the Blazers, Thunder, Nets and Sixers. They scored at least 99 points in each of those four games. LeBron leads the team in almost everything with 28.9 points, 8.0 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Mo Williams is right behind him in scoring and assists with 16.5 points and 4.9 assists per game.
The Cavs are 3-6 ATS in their last nine home games and the total has gone under in four of their last six home games. The Bucks are 2-4 ATS in their last six road games and the total has gone over in six of their last seven road games.
Ryno’s Pick: If the Bucks are able to stop LeBron as well as they did last time these teams met, the Bucks will have a chance to win the game, especially after how well they played in their one-point overtime loss to the Lakers on Wednesday. They were up six in that game with about a minute and a half left in overtime, but the Lakers came back and Kobe Bryant hit a buzzer-beater to win it. With Redd back in the lineup, the Bucks have a much more potent offense. They shot terribly last time against the Cavs, so as long as they shoot better this time they will have a better shot at winning the game. The Cavs don’t lose much at home, so it’s unlikely they will lose this game, but there’s a good chance the Bucks will keep it close and at least have an opportunity to get the victory late in the game. Take the Bucks +10.