Fresh off a rousing victory over the Toronto Raptors, itself coming off a thrilling win over the Wizards, the Milwaukee Bucks have another sizable test awaiting them as the Oklahoma City Thunder trot into Cream City.
Milwaukee reached the 50-win mark before March 1. Remember the days when this franchise had one 50-win season from 1986 and on? We are truly blessed, and Tuesday’s W over the Raptors was one of my favorite games of the season. The defensive intensity was top-notch, and Toronto’s ability to double, triple or quadruple-team Giannis was incredibly disruptive. It seemed like the Raptors were playing a man up at times. Even more impressive though, was Milwaukee’s resilience.
Khris Middleton poured in 22, 17 of which came in the second half, while Giannis Antetokounmpo patiently went to work doing everything but bear the brunt of the scoring load. He looked as in control of the floor as ever in the second half. Oh ya, he also had 19 points, 19 boards and eight assists. Akin to the length between Toronto matchups, This Bucks team hasn’t faced OKC since way back at the start of the season. Milwaukee won that November 10th contest 121-119. Giannis had 35 in that one and Bledsoe added 25. Khris took just seven shots for 10 points; expect a larger output this time around.
Giannis is listed as probable while Kyle Korver is out.
Player to Watch: Donte DiVincenzo
Early-season rotations are a curious thing, and the first OKC match featured just eight saucy minutes of The Big Ragu while Sterling Brown had 12 points in 18 minutes. Donte has become such an integral part of this team’s rotation, one would expect he will get plenty of defensive run against the guard-heavy OKC lineup.
All credit to Sam Presti and Billy Donovan. Not only did Presti command a King’s bounty for Paul George and Russell Westbrook this offseason, but now his own team is merely a few games back in the loss column from the teams to which he shipped his players. What a genius stroke that’s proven to be, particularly as Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schröder gel on the court. The Schroderssaince is particularly impressive, as he’s up to 19.1 points per game on 57.8% true shooting. Between Danilo Gallinari, the four aforementioned players average from 17-19 points per game. It’s been a balanced team, a trend which played out in that first matchup against Milwaukee. The Bucks obliterated their smaller lineup inside though, where Steven Adams (who didn’t play in November) is their most capable interior defender. The 66-38 points in the paint advantage that day could easily be replicable given the Thunder’s lack of wings who can capably match up with Giannis Antetokounmpo. They’re coming off a 112-108 win over the Kings on Thursday night where Gallinari went for 24.
Player to Watch: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
I haven’t seen much of the young point guard out of Kentucky, but all the chatter seems to be about one of the brighter young studs in the NBA. His scoring average backs that up, but he’s not the primary playmaker with Paul still leading the team in assists at a shade under seven. SGA is just a capable outside shooter, around 35% from outside, so the Bucks will make him prove it.
Game 59: Against OKC, 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)