The Milwaukee Bucks are absolutely rolling. Winners of six straight, they set off on a five-game road trip that kicks off in Oklahoma City and concludes in Brooklyn against the plucky nets. Between today’s contest and Thursday’s marquee matchup against Toronto, the Bucks have plenty of chance to further cement their status as one of the league’s most deadly squads.
There’s just something about those Hornets. Yet again, Charlotte gave Milwaukee trouble in their last outing, going small to counteract the Bucks’ jumbo-sized gunner masquerading as a five. James Borrego’s gambit worked for some time, until Bud countered with his own Borrower’s-sized lineup to win out 108-99. With Giannis playing the five for essentially the entirety of the fourth, Bud scrapped his defensive gameplan and went to a switching scheme. The Hornets lost their sting at that point, with Giannis decimating shots and the rim on the offensive end. He finished with 34 points, 14 rebound and three each of steals, assists and blocks. Even if it was against a subpar opponent, seeing the switching employed to that degree, and subsequent success, was encouraging. Oh, also this happened the last time the Bucks played in OKC, so expect Giannis to hear it from the crowd a bit today:
Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe
I’m not expecting much from Khris Middleton today with Paul George’s suffocating presence, so I’ll be curious if Bledsoe can attack the rim and challenge both Westbrook and Terrance Ferguson on the perimeter. Ferguson is the Thunder’s clear weak link in the starting lineup, even if he’s been solid this season, so look for Bledsoe to exploit that offensively every chance he gets. I’d guess Bledsoe gets first dibs on Westbrook defensively, given Brogdon’s not the fleetest of foot, so discipline will be the word of the day for the Bledshow.
Following back-to-back losses to the woeful Atlanta Hawks and Lebron-less Los Angeles Lakers (in OT), the Thunder have ripped off four straight victories, including wins over Philadelphia and Portland. Their victory on Thursday against the Pelicans also featured a stacked stat line from Russell Westbrook, with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists. Westbrook hasn’t really been the driving force of this team though, that would be Paul George, who’s averaging per game career-highs in points (26.9), rebounds (8.0) and steals (2.3). He’s been an absolute menace defensively, look at this freaking chart:
Not lost on me is the fact Russ is in that upper quadrant as well. The Bucks will have to try and limit their turnovers today against the best ball-hawking team in the NBA. OKC is also fourth in terms of offensive rebounding percentage, so it should be another fine test for Milwaukee’s rad rebounding crew in the frontcourt.
As has been the case all year, Andre Roberson is the only Thunder missing from their team.
Player to Watch: Paul George
Admittedly, I haven’t had a chance to watch much Thunder at all this season. I’m looking forward to seeing George’s two-way talent and, in particular, how Khris Middleton responds to the challenge against George defensively. Throughout Middleton’s struggles, Bud has repeatedly praised his defensive effort, and today would be another proper proving ground to try and make life difficult for one of the league’s top wings.
Game 48: Against the Thunder, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)