After their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies Monday night, the Milwaukee Bucks look to rediscover the consistency they found during their six-game win streak against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night on national TV.
The Bucks surprisingly beat up the Clips in the first matchup between these two teams on March 3rd, 112-101, so they’ll look for a repeat against a team in the thick of the Western Conference’s playoff standings.
In the second game of their six-game road trip, the Bucks sit in the eighth seed of the Eastern Conference at a 32-34 record, just a half game back of the Detroit Pistons and half a game ahead of the Bulls and Heat.
Their game against the Clippers is the first of two games in at the Staples Center where they’ll play the Lakers on Friday night, making one-third of the road trip less stressful and cumbersome than other options.
Khris Middleton was a huge factor in the Bucks lengthy win streak, and he’ll continue to be a crucial part of the team moving forward as he remains in the starting lineup. The return of Malcolm Brogdon after a back injury for a couple games bolstered the Bucks barren back court, where they’ve been playing Jason Terry more minutes than his tired legs may want alongside the perpetual oddity, Rashad Vaughn.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s star season continues and his matchup versus the Clippers on national TV should give him an outlet for a stellar performance for all to see. Attacking the rim may prove more difficult with the burly DeAndre Jordan inside to give him some serious resistance. That makes the Bucks center rotation an interesting factor to watch.
Thon Maker will struggle mightily to defend the beefy Jordan, but he’ll be able to pull him away from the basket to open up space. Conversely, Greg Monroe’s big body and improved athleticism should help him hold up down low against the rim-running, dunk-slamming Jordan on defense, although operating in space off pick and rolls could prove troublesome. Offensively Monroe’s post moves, spins and shouts for an “and-1” should be voluminous in more ways than one.
With both Mirza Teletovic and Brogdon returning to play in Memphis Michael Beasley is the only Buck that is out for the game on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, the Bucks two games against the Clippers will come with them at full strength. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who both missed extended time this season with injuries, each scored 21 points in the previous matchup with the Bucks.
Having struggled against an old, savvy veteran in Vince Carter in Memphis, look out for Paul Pierce or Jamal Crawford to have a resurgent game. The aforementioned DeAndre Jordan notched a double-double in the first meeting, and throughout the season Jordan is averaging a double-double at 12.3 points and 13.5 rebounds. Watch out for him to roast Maker on the offensive glass to start the game.
Griffin also dished eight dimes against the Bucks. Thanks to his versatility and playmaking ability he’s averaging five assists on the season. He gets to the free throw line just over seven times a game and shoots it at a 76% clip from the stripe.
Paul remains a nuisance on the defensive end, so don’t be surprised if Brogdon or Matthew Dellavedova aren’t very effective while Giannis and Middleton serve as the primary ball-handlers. Nearing a double-double on the season himself, albeit in only 46 games, with averages of 18 points and 9.3 assists per game, Paul is still an elite point guard in this league.
Averaging 14.6 points per game and six three point attempts, J.J. Redick sprints around screens and curls for open three-point attempts from all over the court as his defender doggedly chases behind to close him out.
After a surge early in the season the Clippers bench has cooled off, but Austin Rivers has improved and Crawford is a scorer off the bench. The Clippers are in a fierce battle for fourth place in the west with the Utah Jazz who they just lost to on Monday night. This shouldn’t be an easy game for the Bucks.