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Open Thread and Contest: Game 31

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Regular Season Game 31
Bucks (16-15) at Wizards (17-13)
Verizon Center
7 PM

Previous Results: Wizards 116, Bucks 111, Bucks 119, Wizards 102.

Well, well, well.  What a nifty little rivalry we have here.  

It's easy to write off the 119-102 loss to the Bucks last Saturday (hell, I did so myself), but apparently the Wizards didn't do the same thing.  

Says Caron Butler:

"They were celebrating, bumping chests, doing a lot of things and I was feeling pretty bad after that game.  That's what we talked about on the flight home, just getting a chance to get back at them. This is our chance [tonight]. They're a good team and you tip your hat off to them, but that extra celebrating wasn't called for."

You may remember how the Bucks stifled the Wizards attack with a soft zone defense on Saturday.  Gilbert Arenas shot 7 of 22 from the floor, and only Caron Butler was consistently on his game.  As per usual, Antawn Jamison was a ghost most of the game with Arenas struggling, even if his final numbers (17 points, 8 rebounds) were decent.  The Wizards offense broke 100 points for the 14th game in a row, but just barely.  It was the Wizards worse offensive performance since their 112-94 loss to Chicago at the beginning of the month.  

But despite the loss, Gilbert Arenas doesn't seem to respect Milwaukee's zone very much

"They've been throwing up that junk defense [Editor's Note: Emphasis is mine] all season.  We just have to attack it. We were settling for jump shots and this time we have to penetrate that zone, make them get out of it and back into man-to-man."

Terry Stotts, undettered, seemed to imply that the zone will work once again tonight.

"When you play a team back-to-back, there aren't a lot of adjustments to be made. You know the team a little bit better. Usually the team that loses tries to make more adjustments.  The team that wins, much like in the playoffs, says, 'Let's continue doing the same thing.'"

I have reason to believe the result tonight will be different.  The Wizards have worked extensively on attacking the Bucks' zone in their three-day layoff, and it seems like the emphasis has been on attacking the holes in the zone instead of shooting long contested jumpers.  The expected return of Brendan Haywood should also help, because his offensive rebounding ability becomes even more effective against a zone rebounding scheme.  Combined with more playing time for Andray Blatche (with Jordan's traditional roadblock, Michael Ruffin, sidelined once again), and the Wizards should be able to get plenty of second-chance opportunities and push Milwaukee out of the zone.

However, I'm still worried that Arenas won't know how to attack the zone.  Arenas is an amazing scorer and an underrated, gifted playmaker, but he is rarely both at the same time.  There are times, like in the season opening loss to Cleveland, where Arenas will get passive and look solely to set up his teammates.  There are other times where Arenas is looking only for his own shot, as he did against the Lakers, Phoenix, and the fourth quarter against Orlando.  But for Arenas to successfully navigate Milwaukee's zone, he has to be both at the same time.  He has to be able to keep the Bucks' defenders off guard by penetrating the gaps for both himself and for his teammates.  If he plays one way instead of the other, the zone will be able to key on that and take it away.

Bucks blogs: Bucks Diary, 5 Point Bucks, The Bratwurst.

Your lines for tonight (via Vegas Insider)

Bucks at Wizards: Wizards by 5.5.
Over/Under on Big 3: 70.2 points.

As a reminder, this is an open game thread, so post away as you watch/listen.