The Milwaukee Bucks begin their difficult December on the road as they head to Cleveland for a division match-up against the Cavaliers tonight. Though Milwaukee has been able to put things together and (miraculously) get off to a better start than Cleveland, the Cavs have won three in a row and appear to be kicking themselves into the high gear that everyone was expecting this summer.
The Bucks will get one of their big men back Tuesday, as Zaza Pachulia has re-joined the team after heading back home to his native Georgia following his grandmother's passing. Pachulia's return is a big boost for the Bucks' front court, which had featured Ersan Ilyasova and Giannis Antetokounmpo as reserve centers. John Henson--who would have filled in while Pachulia was gone--is expected out two more weeks with a "dancer's sprain" in his left foot. Henson hopes to re-join the team in time for their west coast trip on December 15th. Cleveland has some of its own injury worries, as Anderson Varejao is questionable for tonight's game with a rib injury and guard Matthew Dellavedova remains out with a sprained knee. Missing Varejao would leave the Cavs particularly thin up front, with Tristan Thompson and the little-ued Brendan Haywood left as David Blatt's only other true big men on the roster.
UPDATE: Blatt has announced that Varejao will start tonight.
The Cavs were shrewd this offseason, signing role players like LeBron James and making a small trade like the one they executed to acquire Kevin Love, who figures to be a decent contributor going forward. But where Cleveland really shocked the world was in drafting former Virginia Cavalier Joe Harris this summer. The move sent shockwaves throughout the basketball community, as many thought Harris would never put on a Cavaliers jersey a second time around.
They thought wrong. Harris was back in a Cavaliers jersey, but not before he penned an essay with Sports Illustrated discussing the move.*
Since the move, Harris has helped breathe life back into the city of Cleveland. They needed someone to pick them back off their feet, and Joe has been that guy.*
Milwaukee is coming off a loss to the Houston Rockets, whose James Harden-led spread offense was able to keep the Bucks' defense off balance in a 117-103 win on Saturday in Milwaukee. Silver lining: Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo combined for 36 points and 16 boards, including Parker's career-best 13/14 from the line and a second five-assist night in as many days. With Cleveland having tons of offensive firepower, the Bucks' ability to limit second chance points and protect the rim should go a long way if Milwaukee has any hope of starting December out with a win. This month will be a big test for this young defense, though. Nine of their next 15 games are against the league's top six offenses. The first big test is tonight in Cleveland.
(*these photoshops were made by Mike Gartland, aka shafftybro. They are fantastic and Mike is fantastic).
|2014/15 NBA Season|
|December 2, 2014|
|Quicken Loans Arena | Cleveland, OH|
|Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620WTMJ|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Kyrie Irving|
|O.J. Mayo||SG||Shawn Marion|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||LeBron James|
|Jabari Parker||PF||Kevin Love|
|Larry Sanders||C||Anderson Varejao|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|92.8 (20th)||Pace||92.6 (21st)|
|102.3 (24th)||ORtg||110.8 (6th)|
|103.6 (7th)||DRtg||106.6 (17th)|