By “Prove It” week, I’m of course talking about next week’s competition, when Milwaukee must prove whether it can, indeed, embarrass the New York Knicks by 40+ again. I jest, but the Bucks are coming off a scare in Memphis and can’t lose sight of a Cavs team that gave them a decent run two weeks ago.
Since a 119-110 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 29, the Milwaukee Bucks have done what they always seem to do now: win. Their latest came in a rough and tumble effort down in Memphis, where Jaren Jackson Jr. threatened to upset Milwaukee with a 26-point third quarter en route to 43 total points. Alas, most of that damage came with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench, and when he returned, JJJ was soundly reminded of the long-armed leviathan pecking order. Giannis ended with 37 points and 11 rebounds in just 27 minutes, limited due to foul trouble. Khris Middleton tacked on 26 points and Brook Lopez snagged a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
Most concerning was Eric Bledsoe departing with what was called a left shin contusion. No word yet on if it’s serious, but we do know his toughness is not in doubt:
Asked Eric Bledsoe how his shin is doing after the collision in the 3rd.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) December 14, 2019
Bled: “It’s cool.”
Me: “It’s fine?”
Bled: “I’m good.”
Me: “I remember Khris telling us he was fine then missing like two weeks.”
Bled: “I know. ... Khris a little baby, though.”
Player to Watch: George Hill
If Bledsoe can’t give it a go, look for Hill to get inserted back into the starting lineup and move every guard one slot up the pecking order. Hill is still Bud’s first mate when it comes to the bench squad, entrusting him to run the offense in Bledsoe’s stead. He’s rewarded him handsomely with timely drives and finishes along with the finest 3-point percentage in the league. He’ll need his plucky defense against the Cavs selfish chuckers in the backcourt too.
Following their loss to Milwaukee, the Cavaliers had dropped five straight before upending the San Antonio Spurs in overtime on Thursday. Kevin Love put forth some old school Lovin’ with a 30-point, 17-rebound stat line, with an assist from Collin Sexton who poured in 28. Jordan Clarkson, he of incredibly streaky shooting, also had 25 in the victory. I was trying to figure out what sort of team the Cavs might be classified as, and a lot of their shot profile has them middle of the pack, except one area, short mid-range (outside 4-feet but inside of ~14 feet, or the free throw line distance) per Cleaning the Glass. They rank second in the league with 23.1% of their shots there. It’s basically floater territory, also known as, our players aren’t adept enough at getting to the rim so they’re gonna pull up. Expect lots of little midrange jumpers and floaters this evening, the Cavs can’t be nearly as hot as they were last time from deep either (50% on 34 attempts).
Player to Watch: Larry Nance Jr.
Nance Jr. crushed Milwaukee with his energy on the boards last time out, nabbing nine rebounds, and could hardly miss from the floor going 7/8. Given the amount of usage for Cleveland’s guards and Love typically, a bench performance like that is necessary if the Cavs were to try and pull the upset. The Bucks should hope to limit him more in this one.
Game 27: Against Cleveland, 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)