Through nine games, the Milwaukee Bucks have been the epitome of an up-and-down team. Tonight’s game makes it their tenth of the new season, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will visit Milwaukee for the last installment of the Bucks’ five-game home stand.
Where We’re At
Milwaukee fell to the Utah Jazz last night, and the game highlighted their defensive inconsistency to start the year. After winning three straight, the Bucks find themselves only one game above 0.500, and at 5-4 they have only one game (the season opener against Boston) that was decided by 10 points or less. As I said on Twitter, sometimes those big losses are going to happen, but last night’s loss was not the result of an outlier performance; Milwaukee’s last two losses were the result of long stretches of poor defense and not-enough offense to compensate. Honestly, that’s the early story of the Bucks, who somehow still boast the league’s best net rating despite a defensive performance that is smack in the middle (15th overall as of this morning).
The Efficiency Landscape. What Jumps Out? pic.twitter.com/EbigM568f4— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) January 8, 2021
On the injury front, Milwaukee returned rookie Sam Merrill to action after missing time with an ankle injury, and Pat Connaughton (groin) is close to returning while Torrey Craig (nose) is further away, and will likely be sporting a mask when he does come back. However, the spotlight is squarely set on Giannis Antetokounmpo, who took a nasty fall on Friday night and while he remained in the game, he clearly was not 100% and could end up missing tonight’s contest.
Switching our focus to Cleveland, who is tied with the Bucks at 5-4 in the early goings and, thus far, has the top-rated defense in the entire league. Who saw that coming? Tonight, though, we’ll likely see a skeleton crew from the Cavaliers, because their inactive list is lengthy. Out tonight are Kevin Love (calf), Darius Garland (shoulder), Dante Exum (calf), Matthew Dellavedova (concussion), Kevin Porter (legal issues), and Collin Sexton (ankle) is questionable. This may lead the Bucks to exercise caution and rest Giannis on the SEGABABA, but we have no word one way or the other on that.
Player To Watch: Isaac Okoro
The fifth overall pick turns 20 this month, and has already been logging heavy minutes for the rebuilding Cavaliers. His counting stats don’t jump off the page, and he doesn’t take very many shots right now, but he is shooting nearly 70% on two point field goals. Okoro is a high-level athlete with a jack-of-all-trades skillset on both sides of the ball, and he has a knack for pulling off the spectacular play.
Game 10: Against Cleveland, 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)