The Milwaukee Bucks have a tough task this evening, with the Houston Rockets and their pocket-sized turbo-charged approach to basketball. Despite our hopes, the Bucks will continue to be short in the backcourt, as both Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton continue to be held out of action in the bubble.
Bucks guards Pat Connaughton and Eric Bledsoe still listed as out for tonight’s game vs. Houston on the morning injury report as they continue to work themselves back into game shape after testing positive for the coronavirus. They also missed the restart opener vs. Boston.— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) August 2, 2020
Bledsoe and Connaughton are each an important part of the Bucks’ rotation, though their roles are pretty different. Bledsoe, the All-Defensive Team point guard, is an iffy floor-spacer on offense but attacks the rim vigorously, and boasts one of the best field goal percentages for shots at the rim among all NBA guards. Connaughton might be a slightly better shooter, but he’s also a good finisher (and a pretty impressive dunker).
Pat spoke to reporters after @Bucks shootaround today. First and foremost glad he’s feeling better & healthy.— Zora Stephenson (@ZoraStephenson) August 2, 2020
Pat and Bled are still working their way back into the swing of things and will be out again vs. Houston. They are playing 5v5 and getting up and down during practices.
On defense is where the absence is a bit more pronounced, especially against a team like the Rockets. Bledsoe was credited with his bizarre-yet-effective approach to shutting down James Harden last season, and has been a major factor in the Bucks’ success against Houston. Both he and Pat C are also adept at fighting over screens and providing a rear view contest on jump shots, a key feature of this Bucks defense.
Update! We did learn today that, while Bledsoe was reportedly completely asymptomatic, Pat Connaughton did indeed deal with some of the symptoms of COVID-19. Given that he’s in the bubble, he’s obviously no longer carrying the virus and hopefully is fully recovered (by normal, non-NBA player human standards).
- Connaughton said he had "mild symptoms" of COVID-19. Felt like a normal fever/flu, outside of the muscle aches that lasted 12 hours.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) August 2, 2020
- "After about 5 days, I pretty much felt healthy."
- Said he'll play "whenever coach calls my number", but didn't give a detailed timeline https://t.co/745gyluOgc
Moreover, the absence of these two means that more responsibility falls to George Hill (who has been in a bit of a shooting funk in the bubble), Donte DiVincenzo (who’s having an excellent sophomore season), and Sterling Brown (who had fallen behind in the rotation, has been used as a ball-handler in bench lineups, and has struggled mightily.) Hopefully the Orlando restart schedule will give the team enough time to get them fully reintegrated; the Bucks will play a depleted Brooklyn Nets squad on Tuesday, before facing off against the invigorated Miami Heat on Thursday.
Until then, Wes Matthews will probably draw the “defend Harden” assignment, which sounds absolutely awful before even considering that Russell Westbrook is waiting in the wings, playing nominal power forward and generally sowing chaos against the Rockets’ opponents. If nothing else, tonight’s contest should be entertaining.