In one of their wonkier games of the year, including a Thanasis Antetokounmpo start, the Milwaukee Bucks dropped a 127-115 contest against the Denver Nuggets. In case you hadn’t already guessed, yes, the Nuggets did indeed shoot an impressive 47.8% (22/46) from deep while the Bucks struggled at just 12/40 from 3-point land. The loss followed the same script as Milwaukee’s other losses against Philadelphia and San Antonio, and Denver’s wing/guard depth certainly outstripped Bud’s rotation, which was lacking both George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo. Giannis and Khris combined for 55 points, but Denver’s bench decimated Milwaukee’s in terms of scoring, 53-32. They will have to shake off any lingering rust from that game in this matchup against Phoenix, who had their number twice last season.
The Bucks will be without George Hill again and Giannis Antetokounmpo is questionable.
Player to Watch: Brook Lopez
Lopez, who ceded his starting spot to Thanasis against Denver, will have to contend with the Suns’ springy second-year center in Deandre Ayton. Ayton isn’t known for his 3-point shooting ability, so Lopez should be able to corral him well within the paint and midrange, provided he can keep him off the boards. Brook was just 0/5 from deep against Denver; we’ll see whether he can find the mean again vs. Phoenix.
After a roaring start to the season fueled by their offseason additions of Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio, the Suns have come back to earth under coach Monty Griffin. Despite that, they remain on the fringes of the Playoff chase, currently 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies for the eighth slot. Their latest was a 111-107 defeat to the surging Oklahoma City Thunder. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Devin Booker each tacked on 27 in that one, and the Bucks will welcome back Donte DiVincenzo with open arms to grapple with the All-Star-spurned Booker throughout this one. Phoenix spreads out hits shot diet, ranking near the middle of the pack in terms of frequency of shots at the rim, midrange and long-range. While they’re nearly top-five in terms of accuracy from midrange, they’re just 25th from three. Expect the Bucks to live with letting them hopefully die from long range.
Aron Baynes, Cameron Johnson and Frank Kaminsky are all out for the Suns. Dario Saric left the game against the Thunder and is ruled out for this one. Ricky Rubio is listed as questionable.
Player to Watch: Devin Booker
While Booker defenders didn’t quite go nuclear the same way Matisse Thybulle’s agent did regarding snubs for their All-Star weekend festivities, Booker still had a pretty solid case for making his way into The Real Big Game. He’s up to 27.1 points, 6.4 assists on 36.4% from deep. I continue to be somewhat perplexed that his 3-point shooting isn’t more prolific, and he only attempts 5.3 per game, but he’s still a dangerous top-fleet microwave scorer that Milwaukee’s guards will be scrambling around with all game.
Game 49: Against Phoenix, 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)