Jason Kidd is looking better and better as an NBA head coach with each passing day. That could hardly be more obvious than on the day of a matchup between his former and current teams. Kidd left the Brooklyn Nets after one season in charge (a year where they won a playoff series), you can bet that the Bucks will be hoping that the former star point guard stays in Milwaukee regardless of how the postseason plays out.
Not only have the Bucks exceeded most expectations after managing just 15 wins in 2013-14, but they’ve done while playing most of the season without arguably their two most talented players in Jabari Parker and Larry Sanders. The formula is good defensive play and team basketball. Both of those things could be directly attributed to Kidd’s coaching.
The other impressive quality that the Bucks have shown is resilience. Injuries to Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia have further depleted the team’s front court over the last couple of weeks. The team’s response has been to win six of their past seven games. The response has come throughout the lineup. Veteran guard Jared Dudley has stepped up to play small forward, while Giannis Antetokuonmpo has continued his impressive development. The 20-year old small forward has seen more minutes as a power forward recently. He’s averaging 12 points and 6.5 rebounds per game during the season, but he’s got 15.5 PPG and 9 RPG over the last seven.
Kidd has employed a small ball lineup because of injuries to the front court. It’s worked because the team’s backcourt has responded. Brandon Knight picked up 26 points against the Celtics, Middleton posted 25 points against the Raptors, and the team’s three leading guards (Middleton, Knight and O.J. Mayo) all picked up 20+ points against the Lakers. They’ve been giving the coach the chance to run with the hot hand and with a small ball lineup, Kidd has the flexibility to role out a number of different multiple guard sets.
If this game was against their former head coach. The main storyline would be trying to work out how the Nets have been quite as bad as they have been. Lionel Hollins’ team are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. They sit on a 21-29 record in a tie for eighth with the Miami Heat.
A lack of consistency in the starting lineup hasn’t helped. Only Joe Johnson (48 games) and Kevin Garnett (40 games) have started more than 35 times for this team. Mason Plumlee (33 games) is the only other player to start more than 30 games. The team’s two former stars Brooks Lopez and Deron Williams have both had to deal with injuries, both have played erratically, both rarely make it into the starting lineup and both are rumored to be available via trade.
On the positive side, the Nets have actually been playing better basketball lately. They had won three straight before an annihilation at the hands of the Washington Wizards on Saturday night. Lopez has seen a few more minutes, though he’ll probably start on the bench again tonight. He averaged 18 points over the team’s win streak, which came against the Clippers, Raptors and Knicks. Meanwhile, Jarrett Jack plays the vital role of starting point guard. He averaged 17 points and 7 assists per game during the winning run.
Betting Preview: Brooklyn (+5) @ Milwaukee
I’d love to pick the Nets to win this game, if for no other reason than I want to believe that they can still be competitive. However, their recent winning streak came against a couple of teams that aren’t playing particularly great basketball, they’ll have the advantage on the inside in this matchup – though Ilyasova did play some minutes in Milwaukee’s latest contest – at least in terms of depth, but I don’t that they’ll be able to guard the Bucks’ small ball lineup.
Who would have guessed at the beginning of the season that Milwaukee would be favored by five points over Brooklyn? Kidd’s team is playing well and they’ll be motived in this one.
The Pick: Milwaukee (-5) (www.bovada.lv)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 23-17