Spooky. Ghoulish. Frightening. Whatever your favorite terrifying Halloween adjective is, it probably applied to Milwaukee’s performance against the Thunder last night. Outside of Giannis’ 28 points (2-3 from 3-point land folks) there was almost no semblance of an offense. Khris Middleton finished 3-13, Malcolm Brogdon (four points) shriveled like a pumpkin in the cold and nobody else even reached double digit scoring. I’m as curious about D.J. Wilson as anyone, but I’d rather see him on the floor after earninng minutes rather than a byproduct of Giannis foul trouble or a garbage time blowout. OKC overwhelmed Milwaukee with brute force and athleticism the Bucks couldn’t match. The Bucks capably handled Charlotte’s meaty middle with Dwight Howard and Kemba Walker last week, hopefully they can shake off the creepy cobwebs of last night and do the same.
Player to Watch: Thon Maker
Thon stuggled against Steven Adams on the boards, but more importantly he couldn’t contain the pick-and-roll artistry of Westbrook and Adams. The burly Kiwi shartered the rim multiple times, and if Thon isn’t able to hedge and recover or use his length to disrupt Kemba’s ability to make that flick pass to Cody Zeller or Dwight Howard, Milwaukee will have more trouble on its hands. Conversely, Thon theoretically can take Dwight out of the game defensively by stretching the floor, although that benefit won’t be as acute with the nimble Zeller out here.
Charlotte is chugging along during the absence of Nicolas Batum, and his nominal replacement, the oft-maligned Jeremy Lamb, even scored 17 points in their solid win over the Memphis Grizzlies. At least in the early going, Charlotte’s success links back to a resurgent Steve Clifford defense. After posting a top-ten defense in 15-16, they fell off a bit last year to 14th. They’ve vaulted up to fifth thus far, and they have to hope that continues while their second-best player remains on ice. Clifford has his Hornets buzzing around the court this year too, with the 9th-fastest pace after ranking 18th and 19th respectively the last two years.
Player to Watch: Kemba Walker
Malcolm Brogdon has another quick point guard to match tonight, this edition a bit more diminutive though. Milwaukee held Kemba to just 15 points on 6-15 shooting in their last matchup, well below his season-long 24.4 average. The Hornets still run pick and roll at the fifth highest rate in the league and Walker has the sixth most pick and roll possessions per game, ranking in the 90th percentile in terms of efficiency. Keeping an eye on the waterbug guard to prevent launches from deep, penetration to the paint or dipping it to the roll man will be essential tonight.