And now, we will hopefully be treated to a matchup between two European superstars whose singular abilities have radically transformed their teams, franchises and styles of play. Of course, I’m talking about Ersan Ilyasova and Juancho Hernangomez. May these backup titans do battle in the Fiserv Forum this evening.
Of course I jest, but with Giannis’ status still lingering up in the air, there is the distinct possibility that we may not get to see the Greek Freak face off against Denver’s Joker, Nikola Jokic. However, there are still plenty of fireworks across these two squads that comprise part of each respective conference’s upper crust. For Milwaukee, they’re fresh off one of the weirder wins I can remember in awhile, spanking the Wizards 151-131 in what felt like a lot closer game late than the final score indicated. The Bucks scored a franchise-record 88 points in the first half, only for the Wizards to drop 40+ in the third and get this one competitive.
We were all treated to something special, as Khris Middleton dropped 51 on the unsuspecting Wizards, outdueling Bradley Beal in what felt like a direct jab at those on Twitter who circled the “Middleton for Beal” wagons for years. I couldn’t be happier for the guy, who finally got his due with a second All-Star selection.
Milwaukee will be out some prime depth tonight with George Hill out with a left hamstring strain, Giannis questionable with that sore right shoulder and Donte DiVincenzo also questionable with a left ankle sprain.
Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe
Lost in the shuffle of Khris Middleton’s exceptional performance was a season-high 34-point, six-board and 10-assist effort for Eric Bledsoe. He could pummel the Wizards interior defense at will, barreling past Kidd-favorite Gary Payton II time after time. It was a virtuoso performance and one he could continue with the Nuggets lacking any sort of defensive dynamo at point guard. On top of that, he may have the added motivation of yet another year being passed over for the All-Star Game.
Denver comes in hot off a 106-100 victory over the streaking Utah Jazz, and will have to contend with a Bucks team that’s well-rested having not played since Tuesday. Nikola Jokic poured in 28 points and 10 assists in the winning effort, with assists from the Nuggets deep well of wings as Jerami Grant, Will Barton, Torrey Craig and Michael Porter Jr. all scored in the teens. Given they were without usual starters Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap and Gary Harris, that’s one heck of a feat. This game with the Bucks will be a clash of paces, with Denver preferring the 2nd most lethargic pace in the league to run their offense through Jokic, contrasted with the Bucks run-and-fun style that places them atop the league’s pace.
Gary Harris was away from the team for personal reasons, so it’s possible he may return, but Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray and Mason Plumlee are likely to be out.
Nugget to Watch: Nikola Jokic
I mean, who else could it be? This dude’s passing could hang in a museum one day. He’s averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 boards and 6.6 assists for the season, acting as Denver’s offensive centerpiece on most possessions. He can barrel down low for a looping bucket, shoot it from outside competently or just draw every defender’s eye and then dish it to a cutting guard. He’ll be a fascinating counterpoint to Brook Lopez, who entrenches himself in the paint to align with Bud’s zone-drop scheme.
Game 48: Against Denver, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
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Lose big (by 10 or more points)