The past few weeks have been a roller coaster for the Milwaukee Bucks, winning 5 straight, then losing 5 straight, and this afternoon they have a shot at stretching their current win streak to...5 straight. As it happens, the opponent standing between them and a 10-5 record in their last 15 games is the formidable Los Angeles Clippers.
Where We’re At
Much and more has been made about the Bucks’ struggles this season, some expected and others surprising, but all frustrating to watch. One of the trends that has started to normalize is Milwaukee’s performance against winning teams (currently 8-6 against teams with a record above .500), though that has less to do with what the Bucks are doing and more with the fact that ten of the fifteen Eastern Conference teams are now below the middling mark, and two (Toronto and New York, both 17-17) are exactly at .500. This is a weird year, in case you haven’t noticed.
Despite the weirdness, Milwaukee could be in much worse shape than they are. They’ve been continuing to diversify their defensive portfolio, spending much of Thursday’s win over the Pelicans switching assignments rather than stick to the zone-drop script. The offense hit a rough patch when Jrue Holiday abruptly became unavailable (more on him later), but Giannis Antetokounmpo has been back to his MVP form (last 15 games: 30.6 points, 12.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.5 blocks...and 72.9% from the foul line) and Khris Middleton (last 4 games: 24.5 points on .482/.450/.818 shooting, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists) is starting to climb out of the rough patch that may have cost him a third consecutive All Star berth. The Bucks’ depth is holding up, too, with Bryn Forbes, Bobby Portis, and DJ Augustin (who added to his family on Thursday with a new baby girl!) all finding their groove, and Donte DiVincenzo continuing to Do Things.
On the other side, the Clippers visit in the midst of a 5-game road trip. They are neck-and-neck with their LA-based brethren Lakers for second place in the West (behind the Utah Jazz), and they’ve worked through some depth issues and injury woes to build some impressive momentum. All-World wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are naturally the focal point for the Clippers, and they’re also getting significant boosts from the bench with Marcus Morris and Nicolas Batum. They’ve split games over their last 6 contests, going 1-1 against both the Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies, in no small part because of their weakness at the guard positions. They currently have no injuries to report, but considering teams with strong guard play are what have hurt the Bucks the most in the past, Milwaukee might have more advantages this afternoon than we would otherwise expect.
Player To Watch: Jrue Holiday?
ESPN Sources: After missing 10 consecutive games in the league's health and safety protocol, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is likely to return to the lineup against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 28, 2021
If this report is to be believed (and Woj has been wrong before), then our long holiday from Holiday may be nearing a close. Milwaukee clearly struggled without Jrue’s steady playmaking, timely scoring punch, and stout defensive efforts, so getting a chance to reintegrate him back into the swing of things is undeniably positive. Holiday is the first player the Bucks have missed for significant time this season due to the league’s health and safety protocols, so we don’t have any indication on how the coaching staff will treat playing time in his return. We also don’t know how Jrue himself is faring; he’s been on the bench for a few games now (meaning he’s well enough to not test positive for COVID) and has had individual workouts with the team, but we have no information about whether or not he dealt with symptoms or how severe they may have been, or what lasting effects there may be.
No matter what, we’re happy he’s back into it, no matter what the plan may be.
Game 34: Against the Clippers, Milwaukee will...
This poll is closed
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)