The Milwaukee Bucks polished off their road trip with a 3-1 record after taking down the Orlando Magic on Saturday, 111-104. Outside of a depressing loss to Miami that featured a woeful 8-point third quarter, Milwaukee took care of business against three poor teams in Brooklyn, New York and Orlando. Tonight, they get more cannon fodder in the Atlanta Hawks.
Milwaukee’s road trip went about as I presumed it would considering their general struggles against Miami all year. They continue to take care of business against the weaker teams across the league, an enjoyable trend under Joe Prunty’s reign during this cupcake schedule they’ve had. The post-ASB schedule gets considerably tougher, but their much-improved defensive rating (yay for league average!) hopefully bodes well as they prepare for a week off after Thursday’s game. Milwaukee last faced Atlanta way back on October 29th in a 117-106 win for the Bucks in a game Giannis Antetokounmpo went off for 33 points and 11 boards. John Henson is also listed as out again for tonight’s contest.
Player to Watch: Thon Maker
I’ll reference this below as well, but Thon Maker has an intriguing matchup tonight in Dewayne Dedmon. Dedmon is known mostly as a floor-spacer, dipping out to the perimeter to allow Dennis Schroder’s ball-hawking point guard play to dive towards the rim. Maker will have to be mindful of allowing Milwaukee’s other interior defenders (namely Giannis) to take care of business down there with Atlanta having few guys who are legitimately scary off the dribble. On the offensive end, he’ll have an opportunity to draw Dedmon’s defense away from the rim, leaving Giannis to drive by likely defender Taurean Prince, as the only man left inside remains Ersan Ilyasova. Expect a perimeter-oriented game from Thon tonight, which is precisely the type of game Bucks fans should want from him.
Atlanta’s been a dumpster fire for much of this year, clumped now within the glut of teams jockeying for the top spot on this year’s lottery dais. After failing to sell off any of their assets successfully the past few years, the Hawks are staring at a full-blown, old fashioned rebuild through tanking, picking, developing, repeat. This year, Bud’s usual vaunted defense has crumbled without the proper personnel, plummeting to 26th after ranking fourth last year. They do actually post a slightly higher offensive rating than last year (104.2 compared to 102.3), but they’re still firing away from three with the tenth most attempts/game in the league at 29.9. Dewayne Dedmon’s provided floor spacing alongside Milwaukee’s sojourned son, Ersan Ilyasova. Meanwhile, bouncy rookie John Collins is gobbling up boards (7.0/game), but let’s hope Giannis gets a chance to rock his rookie existence with a slam to help us all forget Milwaukee passed on him in the draft.
Player to Watch: Dewayne Dedmon
Dedmon is averaging career-highs in points (10.1), rebounds (7.5) and assists (1.5) in an expanded 23.5 minutes for the Hawks this year. Coach Bud has unleashed him from beyond the arc, shooting 38.9% on 72 attempts this year after firing from deep only once in his pro career before this year. It’s curious that facet was never tapped into during his time in San Antonio, but Pop’s one-time pupil is reaping the benefits of Dedmon’s proficiency. Dedmon had 20 points and 13 rebounds in Atlanta’s recent win against Detroit on Sunday. The rangy center will be an interesting counter to Thon Maker, given both can stretch the floor and neither are considered brutish or adept in the post.