The Milwaukee Bucks are potentially facing something unprecedented for this historic season: a 3-game losing streak. It may not sound like much to most fanbases, but I’ve grown pretty fat and happy on the lack of defeats for this Bucks team, and may have to deal with another on this difficult back-to-back against Denver.
Sunday’s 140-131 loss against the Suns was a defensive failing, the likes of which we haven’t seen all too often this year for the Milwaukee Bucks. Phoenix killed them from behind the arc (19-43, 44.2%), and shot 16-24 (66.7%) at the rim. Without their usual level of brick-walled defense near the tin, they just couldn’t find a way to stop the Suns enough to string together a run that put them back in the game. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe combined for 67 points, providing a fitting scoring punch as they have all season when Giannis sits. They will need to be all that and more if they have any hope of prevailing at altitude against the Nuggets.
Giannis should be the only player out for the Bucks, barring a surprise on the injury report.
Player to Watch: Ersan Ilyasova
I say this for one reason, he got the token starting nod from Mike Budenholzer, but didn’t attempt a shot in the 15 minutes he was on the floor for the Bucks. Marvin Williams wound up playing 25 minutes, but Bud likely still feels more comfortable giving one of his favorites the initial run. I’m curious to see if Ilyasova can at least provide some scoring punch against the Nuggets, and to see whether Williams somehow supplants him in the starting five.
Denver remains in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, despite getting little to none of the same fanfare as their fellow ceiling dwellers. Personally, I find myself writing them off pretty easily too, even with the fact they came into Milwaukee on a back-to-back and out-executed (and out-shot) the Bucks. Nikola Jokic remains one of the league’s most eccentric watches though, moving his body like a dancing bear as he jostles through traffic for post-ups, hanging jumpers and pinpoint passes to his teammates. He is their hub, and Denver has healthier spokes than the first time the Nuggets took down Milwaukee 127-115. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap weren’t around, but they are healthy this time. They are coming off a tough 104-102 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers, so I would expect them to be just as hungry as the Giannis-less Bucks.
The Nuggets are fully healthy.
Player to Watch: Jamal Murray
Murray missed their first matchup, along with a cadre of other Nuggets, and he’s a prototypical type of point guard who could attack the Bucks shooting off the dribble. He’s at 20.6 points and 5.3 assists per-36 this season, along with 34.5% shooting from deep. He’s not exactly a sharpshooter, but he has more than enough skills to settle into the soft belly of the Bucks D among the midrange. If he can work like Devin Booker did for the Suns, bobbing around and executing in pockets of space, the Bucks D is in for another rough evening.
Game 65: Against Denver, 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)