Editor’s Note: With the early tip time on Christmas, we’re putting our preview up a day early so you can all gab about the game today and hopefully enjoy tomorrow morning with friends and family. Happy Holidays, and thanks for all you do to make Brew Hoop a wonderful place.
Ho, Ho, ho and happy holidays dear Brew Hoop readers. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful Christmas with your families, or just enjoy a day surrounded by loved ones if Christmas isn’t in the agenda. Either way, the most wonderful gift of all is coming our way: a Milwaukee Bucks Christmas Day game.
Folks, there’s no lump of coal in your Bucks stockings this year. This team has been on the GOOD list all year long, and Santa Horst has brought plenty of gifts around for Giannis Antetokounmpo to play with this season. Milwaukee rode their Polar Express right through the Indiana Pacers hearts on Sunday, overwhelming them in the second half defensively by holding them to just 34 points in the latter two quarters.
The return of Merry Malcolm Brogdon proved not quite so merry, holding the former Buck to just 5/19 from the field. Giannis took a backseat scoring offensively, only going for 18 points in his 30 minutes, but they were buoyed by 36 combined from Hill and Matthews. As they ready for just their second Christmas Day game in the last 50-odd years, the stakes will be far higher than their throwaway game in Madison Square Garden last year.
If you want even more Bucks-Sixers breakdown, make sure to listen to this week’s Brew Hoop Podcast episode where we dissect this game and look at the week that was!
Player to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Bright Christmas lights. Big stage. There’s no reason not to keep your eyes fixed on Giannis in this one, especially given it’s his first shot at Philadelphia since his 52-point outburst last year in Wells Fargo Arena. That was perhaps my favorite sporting event I’ve ever seen live, and while I’ll sadly be traveling and unable to cheer Giannis on from Philadelphia, I’ll join you legion of Bucks fans hoping for him to honor Baby Jesus’ birthday by giving another certain Philly Baby a proper baptism by dunk.
Philly is coming off a pretty predictable 125-109 win over Detroit, but given the roster construction they opted for this offseason, this year was inevitably going to be unpredictable for this franchise. They chose to supersize their entire lineup, bringing in Al Horford and trying to stake their reputation defensively. Thus far, it’s been relatively successful on that end of the court, where they sport a top-five defensive rating. Offensively, they’re still searching for some Miracle on Broad Street to occur. They’ve started to tick back up the offensive rankings, but finding a balance has been difficult.
Their shot profile features almost equal levels of jumpers from three, midrange and at the rim. However, they have been lethal from all three levels, ranking at or near the top-five in terms of accuracy from each of those places. Ben Simmons has been prone to turn the ball over this year, he ranks in the second percentile for turnover rate per Cleaning the Glass among point guards, so if Matthews gets the call against him, expect him to be looking for strips on Simmons’ drives. Philly also allows the lowest percentage of triples from their opponent, instead forcing teams into midrange jumpers, so keep your eyes on if the Bucks are able to consistently get the same level of shots from deep they have been. How effective the wall of arms Philly throws at Giannis inside should dictate a lot.
Matisse Thybulle should be out with a right knee sprain, but we’ll update this with the latest injury reports when they come out officially.
Player to Watch: Joel Embiid
Embiid is a defensive menace, one of the few players who has proven a mildly formidable foil for Giannis down low. He’ll likely be sagging inside throughout the game, helping off his man Brook Lopez, provided that Al Horford gets Giannis first defensively. I think Philly will feel content with Brook launching away, so we’ll see if he can deliver from outside. Meanwhile, Embiid will probably end up settling for ill-advised jumpers at points, but the Bucks are one of few teams boasting two bona fide defensive centers with the chops to battle with Embiid down low in the Lopii. Theoretically, one reason Robin was signed was for games like this. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
Game 32: Against Philly, the Bucks will...
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