After four straight games against teams racing to the league’s lottery dais, the Milwaukee Bucks will finally tackle a team they could see come playoff time, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Saturday’s St. Patty’s day tilt against the Hawks wasn’t exactly the raucous coasting win many fans likely hoped. Instead, Milwaukee limped to the finish line, eking out a victory with the Hawks keeping it close to the very end. The Bucks capitalized on 19 Atlanta turnovers, converting those into 22 points. Milwaukee is at its best when avoiding the sludge that is its halfcourt offense right now, so they will need to do the same against Cleveland tonight.
Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe kept his shooting down last game, just 10 attempts, and that has been a recipe for efficient success many times this year. With 19 points to go along with nine assists, he filled a playmaker role alongside Giannis. Tonight, he will get a shot against aged but gritty long-armed guard George Hill and Jordan Clarkson. Both are new arrivals, and Bledsoe will hope to slow down the occasionally productive irrational confidence of Clarkson.
Everyone knows about the blockbuster moves Cleveland made at the deadline, shipping out Isaiah Thomas and dead weight to bring in Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood and the aforementioned Clarkson and Hill. They’ve had mixed success since their debut, going 8-7 in their last 15 starting with a Boston blowout. That has included some clunkers to the Lakers and Clippers, but at least they beat the Bulls on Saturday by five. Over that span the most notable difference is their defense, which is ranked 12th overall at 108.0 after spending the first half of the year jockeying with Sacramento for the poorest defense. They are still ranked 28th overall for what it’s worth. Perhaps the most important point is the fact Cleveland is a MASH unit right now, going without Hood, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, Nance, Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman against Chicago. Yikes. For tonight’s game, both Love and Korver have been upgraded to questionable. Lebron seems to enjoy making a statement against Milwaukee but they also have Toronto on Wednesday, so looking past tonight’s matchup is a possibility.
Player to Watch: Ante Zizic
Zizic got a fair amount of hype leading up to his Summer League dud laat year, but his arrival from Boston hasn’t led to much playing time. That has changed with Cleveland’s slew of injuries, and at least he isn’t a burly body the Bucks weaker centers will have to contend with. He had 14 points and six boards against the Bulls and largely operates inside, a welcome change after facing Dwayne Dedmon.