I hope everyone had a happy holidays with their family and loved ones. Now, we turn our own sights to the ones we truly love: the Milwaukee Bucks. After splitting a pair of games against Charlotte last weekend, they resume action tonight against the Chicago Bulls.
Milwaukee pulled off a narrow win on Friday against Charlotte, followed by a similarly tight affair, albeit in a losing effort, on Saturday. The Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo for Saturday’s tilt, who was withheld from the game with knee soreness after a few minutes of warming up. That same issue ailed him over the summer and forced him to miss the overtime win against Phoenix earlier this year. The hope is that this was precautionary and not indicative of a larger issue, but continued problems are distressing nonetheless. Milwaukee will need their superstar tonight against Chicago as well, seeing as they lost last time out against the Bulls, 115-109, even with him and Middleton scoring 29 each. It was a relatively even game across the board statistically for both teams, but Milwaukee shooting just 27.3% from deep and giving up 27 to a punchy Bobby Portis doomed the Bucks.
Player to Watch: Tony Snell
Snell was still out with an injury last time Milwaukee matched up with the shooting guard’s former squad. Instead, we had a 28 minute night for Rashad Vaughn where he ended up going 2/8 from deep. Replace that with the competency of Snell and you may have another win for Milwaukee. Hopefully there’s still a smidge of vengeance burning in his belly too.
Following a 7-game winning streak for Chicago, they have dropped their last two against the Cavaliers and Celtics. Against Boston, they finally looked overmatched with a 92-117 loss. Their recent winning ways have derailed what appeared to be a tanktastic season to this point. Instead the recent run of success, including a narrow loss to Cleveland, seems to have given at least Fred Hoiberg’s job security a breath of new life. Chicago are middle of the pack in 3-point attempts (29.6) but just like last year they are near the bottom-five in terms of percentage. Hoiberg’s spacing offense has always been better in theory than in practice for this franchise. Indeed, the Bulls have the 2nd worst offense in the league. Hopefully Milwaukee can make it actually look that way tonight.
Player to Watch: Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen missed the first game against Milwaukee but should provide another forward for the Bulls the Bucks will have to match. The Finnish rookie is averaging 14.6 points per game this year, although he’s shooting just 40.6% overall and just a shade over 33% from deep. His slender frame led many to believe rebounding issues would persist in the big leagues, and right now he’s averaging the same number as Nikola Mirotic for the season (7.6). Robin Lopez can clean up plenty on the glass to make up for that though. After what Portis did to the Bucks last time, they may be glad to have Markkanen running around out there instead tonight.