It's been a West Coast road trip of extremes for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Having already won in dramatic fashion in Phoenix and Sacramento, the Bucks are assured of returning home for the holidays no worse than .500 on the current trip and the same in the standings. That might have seemed like a best-case scenario heading into the month, which featured a dramatically more difficult fixture list than the 30th-ranked schedule they faced in their surprising 10-8 October/November.
But the Bucks' 2-1 trip has come at a rather steep cost -- the loss of Jabari Parker for the season is far more painful than any individual game, casting a somber cloud over what might otherwise have been a bright week out West. Still, this is what the Bucks have to deal with going forward, and they deserve all the credit for bouncing back from the loss of Parker to beat the Suns and Kings while giving the Blazers all they could handle on Wednesday. Despite the injury to Parker, the ongoing absence of John Henson and missing Larry Sanders' due to suspension on Thursday, the Bucks remain sixth in the Eastern Conference with a winning record against the West (6-5) and an improving strength of schedule (20th).
Their toughest task of the week figures to come tonight in L.A., where they face a Clipper team just a week removed from a disappointing (from the L.A. side) loss in Milwaukee. Neither Blake Griffin nor Chris Paul could get anything going against the Bucks, as Milwaukee's doubling post defense disrupted Griffin's game and Paul turned it over six times for the second time in as many nights. Both players quickly righted the ship two days later in a 113-91 demolition of the Detroit Pistons where Griffin bounced back with a cool 18/7/7 line. They narrowly edged the Pacers a day later beind monster games from Griffin, Paul, and DeAndre Jordan, but the bench remains something of an issue for LA. The Clippers rank 16th in bench scoring per game and 21st in bench field-goal percentage, and they've been consistently shredded defensively.
Fatigue could also be an issue for the Clippers playing the second of back-to-back games, having fallen to the Denver Nuggets on the road 106-109 last night. Then again, it's probably safe to assume the long road trip and injury-riddled lineup has Milwaukee pretty worn out as well.
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
|December 20, 2014|
|STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Chris Paul||PG||Brandon Knight|
|J.J. Redick||SG||O.J. Mayo|
|Matt Barnes||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Blake Griffin||PF||Johnny O'Bryant|
|DeAndre Jordan||C||Larry Sanders|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|96.1 (12th)||Pace||96.4 (9th)|
|110.5 (3rd)||ORtg||102.0 (20th)|
|103.2 (15th)||DRtg||102.5 (10th)|