Bobcats-Bucks Preview

The Charlotte Bobcats’ two-game homestand included an ugly loss

to the NBA’s worst team and an impressive victory over the league’s

best club.

It’s anyone’s guess how they’ll do against an opponent that’s

right in the middle.

The Bobcats look to continue their improved road play on a

four-game trip that starts Saturday night in Milwaukee, where the

Bucks hope to claim a key victory over one of the teams they’re

chasing in the Eastern Conference.

After coming out of the All-Star break with a 103-94 home loss

to the New Jersey Nets – their second defeat to a team that has

just five total wins – the Bobcats responded with their third

victory over NBA-leading Cleveland, a 110-93 win on Friday

night.

While Stephen Jackson led Charlotte with 29 points, the club

also got a major boost from newcomer Tyrus Thomas, who had 12

rebounds and six blocked shots in his Bobcats debut after getting

him from Chicago before Thursday’s trade deadline.

“Coach (Larry) Brown made it a lot easier for me just telling me

to go play and have fun and don’t really worry about anything else

but playing hard,” said Thomas, who had fallen out of favor with

the Bulls.

Veteran Theo Ratliff, acquired from San Antonio on Thursday,

also helped to hold Cavaliers newcomer Antawn Jamison to 0-of-12

shooting.

“With me and Theo now, (Jackson) and Gerald (Wallace) can go

back to their aggressive nature on defense and not worry about

letting a guy get behind him, because they know they have me and

Theo back there,” Thomas added.

Charlotte (27-26) made the moves to help solidify its bid for

the first playoff berth in franchise history. The Bobcats sit in

eighth place in the East, two games ahead of Milwaukee.

Like Charlotte, the Bucks (25-28) began the second half with a

disappointing home loss, falling by 28 to Houston on Wednesday. But

they, too, bounced back Friday, earning a 91-85 victory at

Detroit.

John Salmons – Thomas’ Chicago teammate a few days ago – also

made an impact in his debut with his new team, scoring a team-high

19 points off the bench for the Bucks.

“I didn’t know any of the plays – they tried to teach me a

couple at shootaround, but I forgot them as soon as the game

started,” Salmons said. “My teammates were great. They were telling

me where I was supposed to go on every play.”

Reserve forward Ersan Ilyasova added 16 points and 12 rebounds

for Milwaukee, which got 53 bench points to help make up for

Brandon Jennings’ dismal night. The standout rookie was a

season-worst 1 of 13 from the field, continuing his prolonged

shooting slump.

“(Friday) was one of those nights where we had guys that were

having off nights, but stepped up down the stretch,” Bucks coach

Scott Skiles said. “Brandon got a big steal, even when he couldn’t

hit a shot.”

Jennings is shooting 32.1 percent from the field since New

Year’s Day, dropping his season mark to 37.4 percent – the lowest

in the NBA among players averaging at least 15 points.

He has had no such problems against the Bobcats, averaging 26.5

points while shooting at least 50 percent in each of the two

meetings. The home team won both, with the Bucks beating Charlotte

95-88 at the Bradley Center on Nov. 20.

The Bobcats are 1-9 in Milwaukee since their inception, and they

lost 14 of their first 15 road games this season, but are 6-5 on

the road in 2010.