The Milwaukee Bucks are coming off a 3-0 stretch under new head coach Joe Prunty after taking down the Chicago Bulls yesterday afternoon. Now, they have another crack at Philadelphia after losing one in Philly last weekend without Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The positive vibes keep on rolling under coach Prunty. After taking down the Brooklyn Nets handily on Friday, yesterday’s dismantling of the Chicago Bulls was quite comforting considering it was their first win of the year against Fred Hoiberg’s squad. Milwaukee raked in 13 3-pointers while shooting 46.4% from beyond the arc and 53.2% overall. Meanwhile, their defense contained the Bulls excuse for an offense, holding them to just 41.4% shooting. Milwaukee used John Henson in a far more traditional dropback defensive fashion, especially early on, and it paid off by shutting down any Chicago pick and roll success. Chicago’s lack of dominant primary ball handlers makes it easier to prevent them from making Milwaukee pay, so it will he interesting to see how they manage it against the non-shooting, driving bulk of Ben Simmons tonight.
Player to Watch: Khris Middleton
Middleton notched his first career triple-double in Milwaukee’s January 20th loss to Philadelphia. With Giannis out he handled the primary playmaking duties, and he’s continued steady production even with Giannis returning to demand the ball. With 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists against the Bulls, Middleton remains a necessary across the board contributor, particularly while Eric Bledsoe continues to struggle finding his shooting stroke again.
Philadelphia lost to Oklahoma City 122-112 yesterday, so they will also be playing on a back-to-back, albeit with a more rigorous travel schedule than Milwaukee’s quick jaunt across state lines. The Sixers are sitting at 24-22, but their offensive rating continues to climb into league average ranks (currently 14th) while their defensive rating remains one of the best in the league. The absence of Joel Embiid from a decent number of games this year likely contributes to their weak record when compared to their strong net rating, but that won’t be the case tonight as their star is set to play in the first back-to-back games of his young NBA career.
UPDATE: It appears Joel Embiid is ruled out for tonight’s game, so please disregard the Embiid watch below but fixate on the fact the Sixers are -5.1 with him off the court this year.
No @JoelEmbiid tonight!— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) January 29, 2018
Player to (Not) Watch: Joel Embiid
Update Reminder: Embiid will not be playing tonight.
Embiid playing in a back-to-back is news on its own and it will be curious to see how cautious coach Brett Brown is with his minutes tonight. While Embiid demolished Russell Westbrook last night with this thunderous slam, his team still came out on the wrong side of the ledger with a loss. His outsized body can make mincemeat out of Milwaukee’s thin interior defense so Giannis will likely have to be on his weakside help toes to aid the likes of Henson and Thon. Embiid is the team’s bellwether, posting a 9.4 net rating with him on the court and a -5.1 with him off. Where he leads, they will follow.