One team has lost seven of 10 games. The other seven of nine. Two teams that had the highest of pre-season expectations find themselves victims of distractions, injuries and poorly played basketball.
At least our Nuggets won enough games earlier in the season that they've been able to cling to the cellar of the Western Conference playoff seeding despite dropping games left and right lately. Wednesday night's opponent, on the other hand, never got on track this season and find themselves slipping further and further away from the Eastern Conference's eighth-seed. (As if cracking the "top eight" in the Eastern Conference is any great accomplishment in the first place.)
That opponent would be the Milwaukee Bucks, undoubtedly one of the greater disappointments of the 2010-11 season after putting together a surprising 46-win 2009-10 campaign that ended with a Game 7 playoff defeat to Atlanta in the playoffs' first round. Milwaukee was thought by many (me included) to be one of the NBA's more exciting up-and-comers entering this season, but they've never been able to overcome the assortment of injuries - notably to center Andrew Bogut, second-year guard Brandon Jennings and new acquisition Corey Maggette - that has struck them down seemingly from day one.
When the Nuggets and Bucks first met in Denver on December 1st, the Bucks had a slight halftime lead that was obliterated by our Nuggets in the third quarter. In that game, the Nuggets overcame a tough shooting night for Carmelo Anthony, who finished just 4-13 from the field and got himself ejected in the third quarter. Stepping up to lead the Nuggets to victory that night was none other than J.R. Smith, who contributed 20 points, 10 rebounds and two steals off the bench. Sadly, J.R. has had only a handful of decent games since.
And as a team, the Bucks themselves have had only a handful of decent games since that early December meeting.
The Bucks most impressive win of the season came at the Lakers (of all places), when they took down the Lake Show 98-79 back when beating the Lakers actually meant something. But other than that big win, the Bucks' 2010-11 season will likely be remembered as what could have been. Kind of like the season our Nuggets are regrettably having.
Believe it or not, the Nuggets haven't been able to beat the Bucks in Milwaukee since February 2007, despite the Bucks not being a routinely tough opponent since George Karl coached them almost 10 years ago. The Nuggets always seem to end up in Milwaukee at the end of road trips (like they will be doing Wednesday night) and for the past few seasons, the Bucks have been all-too-happy to take advantage of the road-weary Nuggets when they arrive.
For Wednesday's matchup, the Bucks have the good fortune of not only catching the Nuggets at the end of their road trip but also while the Nuggets are playing their worst basketball since Adrian Dantley coached the team in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz. If there's a silver lining in all of this for Denver, the Bucks may be one of the few teams in the NBA playing worse than we are...so, perhaps, a much-needed road win can be had.
Scouting the Bucks...
-Andrew Bogut: Simply put, the Bucks go as Bogut goes. Even though he's battling through another year of debilitating back injuries, when Bogut plays well the Bucks are tough to beat.
-Brandon Jennings: Jennings suffered from a sophomore slump to start the season, but since returning from injury he has been playing much better. Jennings still can't shoot straight, though.
-Carlos Delfino: While most Buck players have seen their offensive production drop off compared to last season, Delfino has actually improved somewhat.
-Michael Redd: Redd is the NBA's fifth-highest paid player this season. Enough said.
-John Salmons: After receiving a generous (and expensive) contract extension from the Bucks during the offseason, Salmons is averaging seven less points per game and his field goal shooting is off by over eight percentage points.
Anyone want to take odds on how the Nuggets will blow a lead against the Bucks on Wednesday night?
Opposition's Take: Brew Hoop