Hi Milwaukee Bucks’ fans! Merry Khrismas! Happy Jrue Holidays! Heading into this forecast, we are going to find out a lot about this team, since this is by far their toughest stretch to this point. And, to keep with the holiday related theme, is our chance to find out as a fan if the Bucks are going to “Die Hard” or if this season could have a more heartwarming ending than “It’s a Wonderful Life.” (No, the title is not a poll asking for a vote on which movie is better, it’s obvious and therefore does not deserve a poll).
Anyways, for the fourth time this season, the Bucks have made it through the forecast with a winning record, and are holding their place with the second best record in the East. Let’s do a quick review on how they did their last forecast.
They started off sneaking past the Knicks in New York, and then came home to lose to the Lakers. I know that upset many of you, but when anybody plays like Anthony Davis did, it’s going to be hard to win. We then beat Charlotte really shorthanded (both teams were) and then beat Orlando to get a quick road sweep. Following that, we came home and beat the Sacramento Kings who are a much improved team. We then had an impressive road victory, that was come-from-behind, over Jason Kidd’s Dallas Mavericks. Finally, against a lowly Houston team, Khris Middleton got hurt and the Bucks lost.
Julie’s Projected Record: 5-2 (19-7 overall)
Bucks’ Actual Record: 5-2 (19-7 overall)
It’s bittersweet today, seeing my first time getting the prediction right, as well as actually having my record and the Bucks’ records line up. I just wish it didn’t come at the cost of losing to the Lakers at home or to Houston anywhere, but going 5-2 every two week or so stretch is great. But, like the loss at San Antonio, the Bucks can circle this Houston game if we don’t get at least the two seed. One last quick thought, it’s weird that Texas has been very backwards for us, as in we beat the only competent team down there and lost to the other two.
Now let’s do a quick glance at who we have coming up as the season starts to unofficially begin. We start off with the defending champion Golden State Warriors at home, followed by a road game in Memphis, who had the NBA’s second best record last season. We then go against a puzzling Utah team, and then kick off a five-game road trip that carries over into the next forecast. It starts off in New Orleans, who is having a great season, and then we play another rising team in the Cleveland Cavaliers. We then get a rematch against a Brooklyn team that is not as much of a joke as people make them out to be. And finally, to wrap up this forecast we have the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day, and it is clearly the best of the five matchups. If this game is anything like last season’s, we are in for a treat.
Currently on the injury front for the Bucks, Wesley Matthews has Covid-19, so potentially we could be seeing another NBA Covid wave. Hopefully not, but he is out until at least the Grizzlies game. Joe Ingles is also out but starting to practice more.
As for the opponents, Golden State will continue to be without Andre Iguodala, and Andrew Wiggins will be out for them as well. Desmond Bane and Danny Green will be out for Memphis, and Jake LaRavia is questionable for the previous weekend’s game. Utah will be without Collin Sexton, and has Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley and Simone Fontenecchio out until the middle of this coming week, so they could miss as well. New Orleans has Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones out until January 13th, and Ingram has been out a while so he may not play. The Cavaliers will be without Ricky Rubio, Dylan Windler and Dean Wade, and also have Kevin Love and Donovan Mitchell on the current injury report. Brooklyn has seven players out, but only until December 12th, so with them it could be anyone’s guess. And lastly, Boston will not have Danilo Gallinari, likely won’t have Robert Williams, and Al Horford has Covid-19 at this moment. In other words, the injury front is pretty heavy.
*Injuries were updated at 7 PM on December 10th
Golden State Warriors
Tuesday, December 13th
6:30 PM on TNT
Golden State started off pretty rough, and at one point were the third worst team in the Western Conference. But, as I have said numerous times, it does not matter what you are on November 2nd, or even December 2nd to be honest. The Warriors are proof of it, as they already have started climbing past the San Antonio’s, Oklahoma City’s and Utah’s of the conference.
This team does not appear as strong as last year’s though, on paper at least. Without Otto Porter Jr., Gary Payton II, and Damion Lee, the Warriors’ depth is not as strong. All respect to former Buck Donte DiVincenzo and journeyman JaMychal Green, those depth pieces don’t scare anyone. But, the starting five has four All-Stars, and allows postseason hero Jordan Poole to come off the bench. That group of five is among the best in the NBA, and is why they won the chip in 2022.
Now, this team has no great answer for Giannis. Kevon Looney perhaps can do something, and maybe a bit of Andrew Wiggins here and there, but overall they just don’t have the right player to stop him. If the Bucks can focus on the three ball, this has a possibility to be a blowout in my opinion. Likely though, it will be a relatively close game depending on who is getting rest and who isn’t.
At Memphis Grizzlies
Thursday, December 15th
7PM on NBA TV & Bally Sports WI
Like the Bucks for awhile, Memphis has not been healthy for most of the season. Jaren Jackson Jr. missed most of the season, Desmond Bane has missed a lot, and Ziaire Williams and Danny Green either haven’t played or have missed almost the entirety. Even Ja Morant missed some time, and yet, the Grizzlies are still among the top seeds in the West. Part of that is good coaching and good depth, but also that the conference has still struggled to figure out who is really good and who is really bad.
Ja Morant is the leader in points, steals and assists, while Steven Adams is the team’s leader in blocks and rebounding. I think overall, this team is well-rounded, and has been able to let go of a few veteran pieces while being able to continue to keep pace due to some development of younger players. The combination of Jackson, Adams, Brandon Clarke and others gives the Grizzlies the size to compete with the Bucks, and they have the scoring options to do so as well. This should be a tough game, and one that I’m not sure we get, especially if Memphis has most of their roster available.
Saturday, December 17th
7PM on Bally Sports WI
Utah has really fallen off fast, like I predicted, but I think they are too “good enough” to be in full-on tank mode anymore. Everybody in the West aside from Houston and San Antonio is in the playoff picture at this point, but Utah has fallen from the top of the pack to hovering around the play-in. They had a stretch losing eight out of ten which really pushed them down into where they are at. At this point, I expect them to fall further.
Nobody expected a roster led by Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton to lead a playoff charge heading into this season, and it was more of an expectation of who was going to be traded for even more prospects than these players. With that said, the Jazz are a combination of veteran players who are solid contributors, and young players with decent expectations and no experience. That combination usually leads to competitive basketball, but nothing great. Think the Bucks when they were able to make the postseason, we would have the likes of Monta Ellis as well as Tobias Harris on the same roster. That’s what I can kind of see with this version of the Jazz.
How are they going to match up against the Bucks? They have size, but none of their sizable players are great defenders. All of their smaller players are also more offense-focused than defense aside from Mike Conley. So, if the Bucks are able to slow down enough of their potential scorers, they should be able to run this team out of the gym. I’m not fooled by their hot start.
At New Orleans
Monday, December 19th
7PM on Bally Sports WI
New Orleans has had an interesting season thus far, and trying to figure out how good they really are is the biggest challenge. They are currently in first place, but I’m not quite sure how or why. I think this team has the potential to be a playoff team, but they are a pretender when it comes to being one of the real contenders in the West. Zion Williamson has been very under-the-radar in spite of his previous nonstop discussion, and I think if the Comeback Player of the Year existed, he could very well be the frontrunner based on what he has meant for this New Orleans franchise this season thus far.
He’s not alone though, with All-Star Brandon Ingram as a very good number two option, and volume scorer CJ McCollum rounding out the big three. They also have plenty of draft picks coming up thanks to the Bucks (and Lakers) so this team has the pieces to make this return to prominence a longer-lasting one. Their starting unit is one of the best in basketball when they are all playing, and that is probably the biggest reason why this team may not currently be the one seed.
When it comes to how they are going to do when facing the Bucks, the media will likely paint this as the Giannis vs. Zion matchup. I think it comes down to if Middleton (if healthy) and Holiday play better than Ingram and McCollum, which isn’t as guaranteed as you would think. Ultimately, this will be a fun one, and I think this would be my game to watch this forecast, and in that meaning it’s the right combination of being against a good team with not a lot of pressure.
Wednesday, December 21st
6PM on Bally Sports WI
At least when it comes to playing the Bucks, the Cavaliers haven’t been a very good team. Sure, they have battled some injuries, but we have too, and we are 2-0 against one of the better teams in the East at this point in the season. Now, we get to face them for the third time this season, first on the road, and we can get to see what the mostly-healthy versions of both of these teams look like.
The Cavaliers are led by one of the best backcourts in the NBA, with Donovan Mitchell leading the way in scoring and being among the top 10 in the NBA. Darius Garland is also an elite scorer, and is also among the assists leaders in the NBA. Up front, the duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are both double-double threats, and in theory should have the size to match up with some of what the Bucks have. A side note on Mobley, is that Giannis stated (and this is my interpretation) that Mobley could be better than Giannis. I don’t know about that, but he’s probably going to be a perennial All-Star option in a few years if he stays at this trajectory.
Based on the first two games, I think the Bucks should be the clear favorites here, but Cleveland is also too good of a team against the rest of the NBA, that they should be capable of winning at least one of the games against the Bucks. Don’t be surprised if this winds up being a loss, but still expect the Bucks to play well here.
Friday, December 23rd
630 PM on NBA TV & Bally Sports WI
It’s fun to clown on Brooklyn, I know, But even with the Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons drama, this team is still doing well. No, they aren’t the juggernaut they thought they would be (for whatever reason) but like the Lakers they are capable of beating anybody. Durant has quietly averaged 30, and Kyrie is getting 25, so stopping one of those two will be essential. After that, the offense really takes a dip, and essentially it seems like it goes to whoever has the hottest hand.
Long story short, the drama has subsided and they are still hanging around .500, so they are going to be around and possibly be a team nobody wants to face heading into the postseason. The Bucks are a clear mismatch with them, but on a random Friday before a massive game? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucks were thinking ahead in this one, and that’s really the biggest reason I see them possibly losing. So, this is one that should be a win.
Sunday, December 25th
4PM on ABC & ESPN
This is a game that many of us have been waiting for, going to Boston to take on the second best team in the NBA, and the second-best full-strength team in the Eastern Conference last season. This is when the season begins in my mind, and this is the marquee matchup on Christmas Day, and these teams both have picked up where they left off last year, and Boston has done so without Robert Williams III and newcomer Danilo Gallinari.
The coaching situation also has been something for Boston to overcome, and I had to look up who their coach was and he is Joe Mazzulla. Normally when I have to do that, it’s for a team like the Hornets or Magic, not Boston, but apparently it has worked for Boston. They have a really strong top eight, and when Williams III returns that top nine does rival the Bucks. With Philadelphia getting off to a rough start, Cleveland being unproven and the rest of the East struggling, Boston is clearly the only team we have to worry about at this point in the season.
I want to quickly add this as well: “just because we have Middleton back, that doesn’t mean we can beat Boston this year”. Before you react, hear me out. This is a completely different season, Boston is not the same team they were last season, since they have Malcolm Brogdon added, and Derrick White for the whole season. The team also is not getting off to a slow start, and has a new head coach. I still know we are the better team, but Boston still has the potential to beat us in the postseason this year, and that’s all I’m saying.
Julie’s Prediction: 4-3
The Bucks have a great record to start the season, but these games are all potential losses. If I had to pick the three games we lose here, it would be Memphis, Boston, and then Cleveland or New Orleans. That implies that we beat a (somewhat) surging Brooklyn team, a better-than-expected Utah team, and the defending champions, and then one of Cleveland or New Orleans. I guess all I should say is that for this holiday season, be glad the gifts came early, because all of those easy teams in the beginning of the season are going to provide a major cushion for when the season gets into a higher gear.
What Will the Bucks’ Record Be This Forecast
This poll is closed
6-1 or 7-0 (We will be the Hap-Hap-Happiest eople on this side of the nuthouse)
5-2 (A Red Rider BB Gun!!!)
4-3 (Julie’s Correct Prediction)
3-4 (Insert Cheesy Christmas Movie Joke)
2-5 or Worse (We Got Invited to the Jelly Club Instead of the Finals)