Houston Rockets vs. Milwaukee Bucks game preview

The gang's all here tonight. Omer even wore his shirt. - USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets host the new-look Bucks tonight in a game featuring a first career start for Donatas Motiejunas. Thomas Robinson and Francisco Garcia will also see their first action for the Rockets.

RSVP to the game, even if you're just watching on TV

When these teams last played, the Bucks held a commanding lead in the first half as the Rockets struggled to get anything going. In the second half, the tables completely turned. The Rockets tightened up their defense and the Bucks couldn't stop the Rockets from running the break or their offense.

The Rockets and Bucks made the most significant trades at the deadline, with the Rockets acquiring Thomas Robinson and Francisco Garcia while shipping out four players. The Bucks traded Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih, and Doron Lamb for J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon, and one of our favorites, Ish Smith.

The Bucks are coming off an impressive 95-90 win over the Mavericks in Dallas last night. I believe this is like the third time all year that the Rockets have gotten a team on a back-to-back when they themselves have had at least one day off. Stern is going soft on us.

Tip-off at 7:00pm CST.

PG: Jeremy Lin vs. Brandon Jennings

I hope Jeremy is feeling better, because Jennings can be a handful if the mood strike him. He has a penchant for taking long jumpers, which as we all know are perfectly fine with the Rockets. Keep him out of the paint and make him think he can win the game with 20-footers and we're home free.

Lin has to continue to direct the offense and look for his shot. He can't look to pass off open 3s, and his it would be awful if his recent spike in confidence was derailed by the illness he played through in Washington.

Advantage: Houston

SG: James Harden vs. Monta Ellis

James Harden is better than Monta Ellis. I don't think many would deny that.

However, Ellis can score. This is another fact.

I think Harden wins this matchup, but I wouldn't be surprised if Ellis goes off and kills us.

Advantage: Houston

SF: Chandler Parsons vs. Ersan Ilyasova

Ilyasova averages 12/6 and shoots 45% from three and from the field.

Parsons averages more points in more minutes, so he has a slightly lower PER and EWA, but he's more of a swiss army knife than Ilyasova. This one is tough to really make sense of, since the players are pretty different.

It could be a huge matchup, especially since Parsons might be guarding Ellis.

Advantage: Even

PF: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

I'm going to play it lazy and just link to Thomas's piece about D-Mo.

No matter how you slice it, it's exciting to see a young player getting his first start in the NBA. Hopefully it is the first of many. And he gets an honorary advantage tonight. Also I still dislike Mbah a Moute, so there's that.

Advantage: Houston

C: Omer Asik vs. Larry Sanders

Garry Shandling, or LARRY SANDERS! if you're a Zach Lowe fan, is averaging 9/9 this season with 3 blocks thrown in there. He does average 4 fouls per game in 26 minutes, so that's something to be aware of. In his last 10 games though, he's averaging 12/12/4 plus averaging 4 fouls in 30 minutes, so he's on a bit of a roll right now.

I like Asik here, especially if the Rockets can draw some fouls and force a slower Dalembert into the game.

Advantage: Houston

Bench:

The Bucks have John Henson, Mike Dunleavy, and Samuel Dalembert in the front court, along with newly-acquired J.J. Redick in a 3-guard rotation with Jennings and Ellis. This is a decent group, but not a fantastic one.

The Rockets needed some time to get the new guys acclimated, and so they did. Now with three days of practice, McHale has said he expects Francisco Garcia and Thomas Robinson to get some time.

Greg Smith's knee contusion turned out to be just that and not something more serious thankfully. He said he's ready to go. Motie's move to the Starting V (pulling in some soccer/football fans here) means Carlos Delfino returns to the bench. And Patrick Beverley is still backing up Lin. All said, the Rockets might go 10-deep tonight, but McHale has proven that he prefers 9-man rotations, so we'll see who the odd man out turns out to be, if indeed McHale sticks to his guns.

Advantage: Even, because I can't accurately judge a group I haven't seen before.

Prediction: I went extremely homer today and gave the Rockets 4/6 advantages, with the other two being even. So I've got to say that the Rockets win 111-102.

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