Ah, how I pine for the Saturdays of just two weeks ago when Giannis was consuming C.J. McCollum like a freshly shaved gyro and the Bucks were finally living up to the fun friskiness the national media mentioned for the franchise. But alas, the Bucks have dropped their last three and head to a Cleveland squad in a rut of their own.
The fuzzy feeling has dissipated, replaced by a stomach-wrenching sense of angst in less than a week with three straight losses to the Thunder, Hornets and Pistons. Defense seemed optional in all three, and the Pistons pick and roll game decimated Milwaukee all night. Unable to contain Andre Drummond rolling to the hoop, too often Milwaukee’s centers were caught with their compression shorts down as snaller defenders feebly hacked at Detroit’s burly brute. The Bucks now sit with the 26th ranked defense without any added benefit of plentiful takeaways, ranking 16th in opponent turnover percentage. Milwaukee was blitzed by Cleveland in their last game, a result that’s looked stranger by the day as the Cavs have lost to a wayfaring team like Atlanta. Milwaukee could use a win of any kind to reset, but a road win against Cleveland could provide a much-needed confidence boost.
Player to Watch: Malcolm Brogdon
Outside of the four point blip against the Thunder, Milwaukee’s second-year point guard has looked quite comfortable in an expanded role this year. With averages of 15.5 points and nearly five assists, Brogdon’s been a welcome addition for a team that’s needed a scoring punch during Middleton’s woeful start. Derrick Rose generally saves his energy on defense to ensure he can pull up properly for a midrange clanker, so look for Brogdon to attack the bucket or skulk around the perimeter for open looks whenever the former Bull is tagging him.
Theoretically, Cleveland fans should be more concerned than Milwaukee supporters given their pedigree, aspirations and quality of opponent in their recent losses. Cleveland could care less about the regular season though, knowing that their playoff performance is all that matters. Much was discussed in that point in last week’s Lowe Post with Brian Windhorst, but there are still flashes from Cleveland (namely Lebron James) that posturing matters even if seeding doesn’t. Yes, losses to the Pellies, Nets and Hawks look horrendous, but Cleveland has also notched victories against Boston, Washington and Milwaukee, three of the oft-discussed teams aiming to topple their reign this season. Even if the Cavs are down to 13th in 3-point attempts on three or so less per game and posting the worst defense in the league, those wins seem like enough of an early season statement to me that Lebron will still be on top when it matters.
Player to Watch: Kyle Korver
The aged sharpshooter dined out on a Bucks defense that allowed him to hit 5-6 from beyond the arc last time they played. James is as adept a passer as Korver is a shooter, so the Bucks will have to ensure their overloading scheme doesn’t allow Korver to slip free on the backside of the defense. His outburst was a primary part of Milwaukee’s demise last game, hopefully they haven’t forgotten.