The Hawks hung tough with Milwaukee for much of the first half, even leading at halftime. Then, Giannis Antetokounmpo erupted, ending with 33 points and 11 boards against an Atlanta interior without any significant rim protection. Eric Bledsoe was his best scoring buddy, shaking off a 2-9 start to finish with a tidy 28 points on 17 shots. Balance was the key word for the rest of the squad, with every starter hitting double digits and several bench players on the precipice of it.
Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe
One night after holding Trae Young to just 8/22 shooting from the floor, Bledsoe would’ve had another unenviable task ahead of him - containing Damian Lillard. However, with Lillard out, he will still likely draw either the much-hyped Anfernee Simons or CJ McCollum. On top of that, Bledsoe should be looking to exploit the Blazers backcourt on the defensive end with his penetration and propensity for getting to the rack. Bledsoe is at just 29.7% from deep thus far, but continues to convert at an elite level for a guard at the rim (67.7% per basketball) That’s his bread and butter, and while Whiteside can notch blocks inside, he’s undisciplined and Bledsoe’s craftiness should be able to get the best of him.
Mourn Bucks fans, for the waiving of Pau Gasol just one day before this matchup cost us the chance to see one of the lowest stakes revenge games one can imagine. Instead, we will be treated to the Melo Show, whose general meh-ness for awhile before he didn’t even find a team last year has made the hullabaloo surrounding his return a little insufferable to yours truly, but he’s a mildly fun break in case of emergency piece for Portland. Emergency is probably an overstatement 15 games into the season, but Portland has had trouble restarting after last season’s Western Conference Playoff trip. They’re fresh off a 115-104 loss against the New Orleans Pelicans, their first game of the season without Lillard.
Player to Watch: Anfernee Simons
Simons was a lesser known prospect coming out of the draft, and rarely played last year (just 141 minutes total). In preseason, he seemed to garner some national chatter about his potential to break out, particularly after he led the Blazers to an unlikely win in the last game of the prior season and he erupted for 37 points while playing all 48. He is listed as questionable, but hopefully he can give it a go as I haven’t had much of a chance to catch him yet this year.
Game 15: Against Portland, 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)