Where We’re At
The Bucks are coming off of their second largest comeback win in franchise history, after erasing a 26-point deficit against the Trail Blazers. Such a feat probably shouldn’t have been necessary against a rebuilding Portland team, but close games have been the story of the early season for Milwaukee. In fact, 11 of their first 17 games have been decided by single digits. With so many games coming down to the wire, it helps to have an offense led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, who are both averaging north of 25 points per game. Although the defense has shown flashes of improvement over the past month, it’s still a far cry from the high-ranking units the Bucks have flexed in previous seasons. It’s going to take time, but I think the Bucks’ faithful have earned a few blowout wins for all the high-stress basketball they’ve witnessed in the past month.
The Heat are coming off of a 112-97 loss to the Nets on the road. On paper, this season’s Heat team is almost an inverted version of the Bucks. Their offense is very middle-of-the-road, but their defense ranks near the top. Like the Bucks, they have also endured a lot of nail-biters, although their scores tend to be around 15 to 20 points lower. Some of their offensive woes are due to Tyler Herro’s absence, as the star guard has been sidelined with a Grade 2 ankle sprain for the past two-and-a-half weeks. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have also missed several games with minor wounds. Despite the poor injury luck, the Heat have still won nine of their last 12 games, and they’ve continued to own that scrappy, underdog ethos that carried them to the Conference Finals last summer.
The Bucks will be without Jae Crowder, who is recovering from the adductor and abdominal tears that he suffered on November 11th. Khris Middleton is questionable with an achilles injury.
The Heat will be missing Herro with the aforementioned ankle sprain. Dru Smith and R.J. Hampton will also be sidelined, both having knee injuries. Jimmy Butler was questionable, but he has since been ruled out with an ankle injury. Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo are probable with minor injuries, while Haywood Highsmith is questionable.
Player To Watch
I’ll be keeping an eye on Brook Lopez tonight. After scoring 16 or fewer points in each of the Bucks’ first 14 games, he went on a tear, scoring 28 and 39 on stellar efficiency in back-to-back games. He cooled down a little bit against the Blazers, scoring just 10. But I’m curious to see if he can heat back up in Miami (pun intended). He has only attempted 10 or more field goals in seven games this season, so we’ll see if he is allowed the shooting volume to have another big night.
How To Watch
Game 18: Against the Heat, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
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Lose big (by 10 or more points)