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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Portland Trail Blazers: Saying hello to old friends

Lillard will take on his old squad for the first time as an opponent

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The centerpiece of the Milwaukee Bucks’ off-season was their acquisition of Portland Trail Blazers icon Damian Lillard. While Lillard only reached the Western Conference Finals once, Dame’s commitment to Portland and “not running from the grind” endeared him to the Trail Blazer faithful. Now for the first time in his career, Lillard will sit on the opposing bench as his new team, the Bucks, will take on the Trail Blazers today.

Where We’re At

The Bucks took two out of their three games and are tied with the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers for the two seed in the Eastern Conference at 11-5. The week began on Monday with a win over the Washington Wizards in DC, scoring a season-high 142 points. It wasn’t a perfect performance, giving up 129 on the other end, but it set up a battle for first place in the East with Boston on Wednesday. Even with some late-game heroics, Boston held off a Milwaukee miracle to win 119-116. After that brief two-game road trip, the Bucks returned home to host a rematch with the Wizards for their third In-Season Tournament game. It was a much tighter contest than their previous match-up, but free throws from Giannis and Dame with three seconds helped seal a 131-128 victory. In the process, the Bucks made some franchise history, as for the first time three different Bucks scored 30+ points in the same game with Brook Lopez (39pts), Giannis (31pts), and Dame (31pts).

As for the Trail Blazers, it’s been a rough stretch for them over the last two weeks. After beating the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 3, Portland lost their next eight games in a row by an average of 14.5 points per game. On Wednesday, the Blazers got a big win over the 4-11 Utah Jazz 121-105, behind Jerami Grant’s game-high 30 points and Portland’s defense holding Utah to 10-for-31 from three-point range. Despite their 4-11 record, the Trail Blazers have been a somewhat average defensive team, ranking 19th in defensive rating at 113.8. The issue has been the offense for Portland without Anfernee Simons (right thumb injury), as they sit last in points per game (104.4) and offensive rating (105.2).

Injury Report

The Bucks will be without Khris Middleton, who was pulled from Friday’s game against the Wizards with left Achilles tendinitis. The Bucks said that Middleton did not need any imaging, which should provide some hope that this injury is not long-term.

Giannis is listed as probable with a non-Covid illness. The only other player listed on Milwaukee’s injury report is Jae Crowder, who is still recovering from left adductor surgery.

On the other side, Portland will be getting Deandre Ayton back, who missed the Blazers’ last game against the Utah Jazz due to low back soreness. In 14 games this season, the former No. 1 overall pick is averaging 12.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in his first season in Portland. Robert Williams will be out with right knee surgery and Simons will be out with a torn ligament in his right thumb. Ish Wainright won’t be suiting up either, as he only played two games this year due to a sprained left MCL.

Player To Watch

I’m going with the former UConn Huskie in Andre Jackson Jr. The last time that Khris Middleton was out against the Dallas Mavericks, it was Jackson that Griffin tapped for the starting lineup. While only posting two assists and a minus-11, he has always brought energy to the game. Jackson is also coming off his career high in scoring against Boston on Wednesday with seven points.

How To Watch

Bally Sports WI at 2:30 p.m. CST.


Game 17: against the Trail Blazers, the Bucks will...

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