Finally emerging from the confines of New York City, the Milwaukee Bucks return to the Midwest to wrap up the final game of their road trip and their final game of 2023 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Where We’re At
Entering tonight with a record of 18-4 in their last 22 games, the Bucks have successfully found the base formula for plenty of regular season winning: Scoring a bunch, having a ton of home games, and getting a bevy of gimme games against lesser opposition. But, sitting in the East’s second seed, the teams that count as “lesser opposition” include much of the NBA right now. Their most recent victory over the Brooklyn Nets was yet another offensive show, dropping 144 points (on the league’s 23rd-ranked defense, to be fair) with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way with 32 of his own on 10-12 shooting. Khris Middleton has now strung a number of good offensive outings together as well, scoring 27 and dishing out 10 assists. While Damian Lillard had a relatively quiet night, Malik Beasley shot 5-8 from three and the bench trio of Bobby Portis, Cam Payne, and MarJon Beauchamp combined for 43. More than enough to outpace a lackluster night from Brooklyn’s starters.
The Cavaliers will present a different challenge, although injury trouble may make them more vulnerable than they appear on paper. Their offense is uninspiring, with a slight majority of offensive possessions ending in the hands of Donovan Mitchell or Darius Garland, and a mediocre 3P% isn’t helping. It is a more encouraging story on defense, with a rating of 113.5 making them 11th-best in the NBA led in large part by Jarrett Allen in the paint and the above guards combining for over three steals a night. They enter tonight having won their last two games on the road with victories over the Chicago Bulls and a close 113-110 contest against the Dallas Mavericks. Unfortunately for them, the injury bug (below) has hampered their ability to push their way into the East’s upper echelon so far.
For the Bucks, the only question is Giannis Antetokounmpo who is listed as probable with right calf “injury management”. Jae Crowder remains out after adductor surgery.
Cleveland has a ton more to deal with. Darius Garland (broken jaw), Evan Mobley (left knee surgery), Ricky Rubio (leave of absence), and Ty Jerome (right ankle sprain) are all out while Donovan Mitchell (illness) and Sam Merrill (right ankle sprain) are questionable as of the 4:30 PM report.
Player to Watch
The best part of Bucks-Cavs matchups has always been the Giannis Antetokounmpo-Jarrett Allen duel, and tonight will be no different. Allen has made his bones on the defensive end for much of his career and has zero fear of the possibility of posterization. If Giannis is charging the basket with a full head of steam, Allen will do his damndest to meet him at the summit. Fireworks routinely result one way or the other.
How to Watch
Bally Sports WI and NBA TV at 6:30 PM CST
Game 32: Against the Cavaliers, the Bucks will...
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