In years past, this matchup might have felt like an NBA afterthought. But today, things need to be taken seriously, as the cream of each conference’s crop comes together as the Milwaukee Bucks host the Sacramento Kings.
Milwaukee, previously undefeated, got knocked around by the Boston Celtics for one clear reason: they allowed themselves to be placed on the wrong end of the math problem. The Celtics were able to put up an ungodly number of three-point attempts, and the Bucks’ defense was put into a no-win situation: either stick to the plan and concede open looks, or abandon the scheme and let chaos reign. Coach Mike Budenholzer, for his part, is far more concerned with the former.
Obviously, it was a big topic against the Celtics as the Celtics leaned on the middle pick and pop with Horford and the Bucks played their base defensive scheme for much of the game.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) November 3, 2018
Here is one of Bud's full responses on the topic: pic.twitter.com/aScnEyWwyU
Boston’s elite defense also stifled Milwaukee’s opening to get up threes of their own, so that return to good Houston-esque habits will be a welcome sight on Sunday afternoon. We all know that Giannis Antetokounmpo can wreck teams in the paint, but he’ll have an easier time doing that if Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and the rest of the team’s shooters are pulling defenders away from the rim.
Player to Watch: Donte DiVincenzo
Old news: “The Big Ragu.” New hotness:
My dad threw out “Redhot” as a potential DDV nickname. Thoughts?— Adam Robert Paris (@adamrparis) November 2, 2018
Sure, it’s a little on the nose re: Donte’s ginger features, and I happen to despise Red Hots (seriously, cinnamon needs to stay in its lane), but it’s a) better than the Gus Johnson-inspired moniker, and b) an accurate portrayal of many Bucks fans’ temperature on DiVincenzo.
OK, that’s enough foolishness. Donte DiVincenzo has raised eyebrows in Milwaukee and elsewhere, despite the fact that he’s hitting only 29% of his threes. He appears to be a decent ball-handler, a willing passer, an impressive rebounder, a capable defender, and even a shot-blocker in transition! And now, say it with me, the refrain for all of the former 17th overall picks in Milwaukee, “If he can get his shot to fall...”
This is not a drill: the Sacramento Kings are actually good!
The Sacramento Kings are on pace to win 51 games.— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) October 31, 2018
Few NBA fans saw this coming, but things change fast in the league, and you have to be fast to keep up. Speaking of fast: Sacramento plays fast; at a rate of 106.2, their pace ranks second in the NBA. Curiously, this is not a result of the Kings embracing the league’s three-point trends; while they rank only 22nd in 3PA/G (26.1 attempts), they are first in 2PA/G (65.6 attempts). While their 3PAr is downright Old Bucks-ian (which isn’t helped by the ongoing absence of Bogdan Bogdanovic), the numbers paint the picture of a team that runs out everything, and runs hard...which happens to fit the style of young guard De’Aaron Fox.
Player to Watch: Buddy Hield
When Hield swapped places with then-franchise cornerstone DeMarcus Cousins, people were apoplectic about how poor of a return the Kings got for their superstar. As it happens, Hield has seemed to get his career on track, and is currently knocking on the door of the “20 PPG Club,” averaging 19.8 points (with shooting splits of .531/.489/.818), 6.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. The Kings are well-known for their youth and depth in the front court, but limiting Hield will be key in Milwaukee’s aim to leave for the West Coast with a W.
Game 9: Against Sacramento, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
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Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)