Ahh, it’s that time of year. Like, officially that time. Yes indeed, it’s the time of year where we will all put the date on a document at some point, be it for work or school or something else...before suddenly realizing that it’s not 2021 anymore and we need to change the year to 2022.
(Happy New Year, everybody!)
Where We’re At
Milwaukee comes into 2022 riding a five-game win streak and a solid handle on the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. At 24-13, they actually have the most wins in the East (Brooklyn has 23, Chicago and Miami have 22), but the Nets and Bulls have only lost 10 games thus far. No matter how you slice it, the Bucks had a tough start to the year with availability (due to injury as much as the health and safety protocols), and they’ve looked more like themselves once everybody made their way back into the rotation (with Brook Lopez as the only remaining notable exclusion). Khris Middleton will be unavailable tonight for personal reasons, while Semi Ojeleye (protocols) and Brook Lopez (back surgery) are expected absences. In the long-distance race to the NBA Finals that makes a marathon look like a 5K, the Bucks prefer to plod forward steadily in the interest of turning it up when it matters. Keep your hare, we’re good with the tortoise.
On the other side, New Orleans continues to churn around in circles. They’re stuck in the same tier as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets (read: not good) and have little hope of climbing the ladder with Zion Williamson still sidelined with a persistent foot issue. What’s more, a number of their other contributors are banged up (particularly Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram) or stuck on the protocols (Jonas Valanciunas), meaning the Pels are not nearly as strong as they were when they nabbed an overtime victory over the Khris- and Giannis-less Bucks a few weeks ago. The Pelicans have won 5 of their last 6, so there’s some hope in New Orleans, but you have to look awfully hard to see it, a feeling that long-time Bucks fans are all too familiar with and are happy to no longer share.
Player To Watch
When we last saw Devonte’ Graham, he dropped 8 threes on Milwaukee (on some truly preposterously-difficult attempts) to fuel the Pelicans’ overtime victory. Since then, he’s only averaged 15.8 points per game as his three-point shooting has cooled off considerably. On a night where Graham might be the only major plus on offense (especially if Brandon Ingram, dealing with an Achilles issue, doesn’t play), how will his trigger-happy ways help or hurt his team’s efforts? Several corners of Bucks Twitter have pined after Graham as a potential trade target, making his performance slightly more attention-worthy. (Personally, if there were a player from the Pelicans that was worth such attention, it would be Josh Hart, but that’s neither here nor there.) One thing’s for certain: if Graham isn’t hitting on his pull-up threes, what else can he – and the Pelicans – do?
Game 38: Against New Orleans, the Bucks 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)