Winning certainly seems contagious at the moment. Basking in the glow of ringing the Los Angeles Clippers bell last Friday, Milwaukee had all weekend to rest up for their four contests coming up this week. It’ll be tough to outdo the carnage they’ve inflicted in their last four games, winning by 41, 44, 24 and 28 respectively. That Clippers game put any lingering doubts about this team - and their streaking over subpar competition - to rest. Giannis Antetokounmpo played only 26 minutes, logging 27 points and 11 boards in that time. I’m expecting a decent effort from a Magic squad making their bones on defense, but they also fell to Milwaukee by 32 back on November 1.
Player to Watch: Pat Connaughton
Connaughton is streaky, but his shot was true against the Clips. Annoying shot blocking attempts aside, his on-court energy is infectious - and usually effective. He went 5/5 against the Clips, and after going 0/5 from deep in November against Orlando in the Magic Kingdom, I’m sure he’s hoping to make amends for a poor shooting evening.
Like Milwaukee, Orlando got a full weekend to recover after taking down John Beilein’s apparently tearing apart at the seams Cavs team, 93-87. Their leading scorer was noted Bucks assassin Terrence Ross, who was uncharacteristically just 4/15 from the field last time Ross played Milwaukee. Their starting lineup has shifted ever closer to embracing a full youth movement for John Hammond’s team, as Markelle Fultz has supplanted D.J. Augustin in the starting lineup. Khem Birch is still starting over Mo Bamba though, as the 7-footer from Texas has yet to fully find his footing at the next level. They’re a Steve Clifford team through and through still, ranked second to last in terms of pace, near bottom five in offensive rating and top ten defensively. They’ll play Milwaukee tough on the defensive end, but the question will be whether they can stick with the Bucks’ frenetic pace.
The Magic are without Nikola Vucevic and another potential Giannis defender, Al-Farouq Aminu.
Player to Watch: Aaron Gordon
Every time I watch Aaron Gordon, I come away wondering why he’s not better. He looks the part physically, but there’s a predilection for odd pull-up jumpers that confounds me, along with a stat line that’s dipped from his past two seasons. His 3-point shot has yet to round into an above 35% form too. He seems like someone still unsure of what his ideal role in the NBA is, or someone unwilling to accept that he’s better as a tertiary option. His athleticism and thunderous dunking ability remain potent. We will see if he gets any chances against Giannis tonight, as Jonathan Isaac has routinely got turned to dust by the Greek Freak.
Game 24: Against Orlando, 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)