With a duo of victories in their pocket from the state of California, the Milwaukee Bucks trekked up to Oregon last night following their victory over the Sacramento Kings 127-106. Similar to the Kings, Milwaukee’s opponent, the Portland Trailblazers, would be labeled a disappointment thus far into the season. Despite that, their guard play is still elite enough that sleeping on them would be foolish, particularly with the Bucks facing a B2B situation.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was on the injury report heading into the Kings game, and he certainly looked a little hobbled against them. Not overtly, but more so in his lack of aggressiveness and ability to finish at the rim. He attempted just nine shots en route to 13 points. We’ll have to see whether it warrants a night off for him. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe held down the fort in his stead though - combining for 51 points. Milwaukee dispatched a shorthanded Blazers squad 137-129 back in November at the Fiserv when C.J. McCollum went off for 37. Preventing Portland’s guards from finding their rhythm with clean looks will be imperative.
Player to Watch: Sterling Brown
Given his recent stint stuck on the bench for Bud, it was heartening to see Brown get thrown on the court against Sacramento to switch things up - and ultimately have success. He was hounding Kings guards on the defensive end and his 3-point shot was falling like he hadn’t missed a beat. His 11 points and 12 rebounds helped spark the club from partway through the third through the duration of the fourth. I’ll be curious to see if Bud gives him another shot in this one.
It hasn’t been the rosiest of seasons for a Portland team that managed to claw their way to the Western Conference Finals last season. An injury to their believed future front court stud Zach Collins didn’t help things when they were already without Jusuf Nurkic to start the season. They’ve been forced to rely on Hassan Whiteside in the interim, and despite the emergence of Anfernee Simons, this team just isn’t performing at typical Terry Stotts levels of success during his tenure there. The fact Carmelo Anthony has had to play such a pivotal role in their rotation tells you plenty about the state their roster is in. They’re coming off a 116-102 loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were without Karl-Anthony Towns. Lillard led all Blazers but was just 6-18 from the field.
Player to Watch: Damian Lillard
Lillard missed the first matchup between these two teams, leaving McCollum to make midrange music the entire evening. Thankfully, both he and Bledsoe should be healthy for this one, setting us up for a fascinating night of defense vs. offense. Lillard continues to shoot the lights out from deeper and deeper, a prime skill to knife Milwaukee’s defense in between the ribs. The question will be how much Bledsoe can power through screens to deter Lillard from launching anywhere past the logo basically. For the season, he’s 36% on 9.5 attempts per game.
Game 41: Against Portland, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
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