The Milwaukee Bucks (30-17) will continue their road trip along the Pacific coast tonight to Oregon to take on the Portland Trail Blazers (29-18). Milwaukee dominated Portland 134-106 in the first matchup on Feb. 1st, but the revived and revamped Blazers are on a four-game win streak, three of which have included noted Buck-killer Norman Powell and Jusuf Nurkic.
Where We’re At
Tonight marks the halfway point in a west coast road trip that has become one of the toughest challenges to date for the 2020-21 Bucks squad. After three straight frustrating losses to the Celtics, Knicks and Clippers, Milwaukee was able to (sort of?) get back on track Wednesday night against the super starless-Lakers. It wasn’t the best looking win in the world, but another strong showing from Jrue Holiday – who’s averaged 22 points and 6.8 assists on 51% from deep over the last five games – plus late surges from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton helped get the job done. On top of that Brook Lopez seemed to have a little pep in his defensive step and finished with four blocks plus a poster dunk on Montrezl Harrell, which was encouraging.
The Bucks will likely still be without Bobby Portis (Health and Safety Protocols) and P.J. Tucker (Calf), which means the Thanasty minutes are here to stay and you can’t do anything about it. Rodions Kurucs (Abdominal) will also be out.
Portland on the other hand is finally back to full strength with the exception of Zach Collins (Ankle) and Nassir Little. They acquired Norman Powell at the trade deadline and finally saw Jusuf Nurkic return to the lineup last Monday after missing over two months with a fractured wrist. They’re 3-0 with the two recent additions and have looked substantially better on defense where they’ve been awful all season – 29th in the league in overall defensive rating.
Damian Lillard sits at second in the NBA with 29.8 points per game and has kept this team afloat amidst all the injury trouble, emerging as a true MVP candidate in a year where there isn’t one clear choice. Since returning from a broken foot, CJ McCollum has been spotty and struggling to hit the three (34%) but has been a driving force of the team’s success over the winning streak. Last Sunday, he scored 29 points in the first half in their win over Miami.
The Blazers have been rolling out a lineup with Lillard, McCollum, Powell, Robert Covington and Nurkic so look for the Bucks to feed Giannis and get him out in transition. It’s also worth noting that the Blazers are second in threes attempted per game (42.3) and shoot a collective 38% from deep. We as Bucks fans know far too well that when it rains, it pours, so hopefully, we’re able to keep them at bay.
Player To Watch
Damn near every time I’m writing the preview and Norman Powell is lined up on the other side, he’s going to be the player to watch. Between the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals and the three games he faced us as a Raptor this season, he just always seems to find a way to kill us. Most recently, he scored 29 points on 75% shooting in Milwaukee’s 110-96 loss on Feb. 18th. Powell is having a career year and as he gets more comfortable in Portland’s system, he’ll be someone to keep an eye on.
Game 48: Against the Blazers, the Bucks will...
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