After a thrilling come-from-behind victory against Minnesota (which included more than a few moments of angst for fans to chew on), the Milwaukee Bucks hit the road to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Milwaukee’s win against the Timberwolves was very much a tale of two games. Initially, the Bucks were flat, despondent, and unexciting. After halftime, they moved with purpose, got after the ball, and showed off the #EnergyAndEffort that makes the Bucks a fun team to watch. They did, however, fall back on old habits, and showed off a fair amount more of their hyper-aggressive defense that had gotten them into trouble earlier in the season:
Also, the Bucks have blitzed the living hell out of the Timberwolves in this game. Not sure people should be excited about that.— Dean Maniatt (@AllTheBucks) December 29, 2017
The Wolves, a team that boasts a highly-rated offense, is still a team prone to mistakes, particularly when Jimmy Butler (who is great) is their best playmaker. It will be worth watching how much the Bucks blitz the Thunder tonight, who have more seasoned passers on their squad (despite their reputation).
The Bucks ought to have their full roster available tonight, save for the obvious absences (Jabari Parker and Mirza Teletovic).
Player To Watch: Malcolm Brogdon
The Bucks very much go as far as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe will take them, but Brogdon’s contributions were crucial to last night’s comeback win. OKC’s top-heavy roster leaves room for their reserves to be exploited, which is a task Brogdon is well-suited for...at least if he can get off the bench in time.
Just got done watching the 1H.— Dean Maniatt (@AllTheBucks) December 29, 2017
Giannis asks Brogdon why he hasn't played yet, Malcolm can only shrug. pic.twitter.com/sc1X5dmQyS
After taking a while to get their bearings, the Thunder appear to be poised to push up against their Western Conference counterparts. Winners of six consecutive contests, Oklahoma City is pushed by the reigning MVP Russell Westbrook’s continued ball-dominance (in more ways than one), and boasts a trio of excellent defenders (Paul George, Steven Adams, and Andre Roberson) to allow Carmelo Anthony to do what he does best: get buckets. Zach Lowe may have put it best in his Friday column, which featured the Thunder:
This [OKC] isn't a 60-win juggernaut waiting to bust out. But they could play the rest of the season at a 50-win pace, and be an absolute pain in the ass in the playoffs.
The Thunder are also rested, healthy, and playing at home. Needless to say, Jason Kidd and company have their work cut out for them tonight.
Player To Watch: Steven Adams
After helping to stifle the very good Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, Adams (aka “Big Kiwi”) will get a chance to make his presence known against Milwaukee’s undersized front court. Giannis and Middleton will each have their hands full containing OKC’s three-headed CPR (Carmelo+Paul+Russ) monster, and both Thon Maker and John Henson have struggled mightily to maintain any sort of control over the defensive glass. If Adams gets things going early, it could be another long night for Milwaukee.