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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Preview: Can Prunty stay undefeated?

Prunty looks to guide the ship until the Doc is in

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The post-Adrian Griffin era got off to a good start on Wednesday for the Milwaukee Bucks, with newly-minted All-Star captain Giannis Antetkoumpo putting together a 35-point, 18-rebound, and 10-assist triple-double in the Bucks 126-116 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. New All-Star starter Damian Lillard had 28 points and four assists to help in the winning effort. Now, the Bucks and Cavs will go at it for the last time this season today at Fiserv Forum.

Where We’re At

The Bucks officially hit the coaching reset button when they fired Griffin and are reportedly hiring former Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers. Until the hiring becomes official from Milwaukee’s end, Joe Prunty is the interim head coach. Prunty got his first win in his second stint with the interim tag on Wednesday, his first at the Bucks’ helm since Game 6 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Celtics. The defense seemed to be better in spurts, especially in the second quarter when the Cavs shot just 9-for-21 (43%) and scored 23 points. Yet it was the Bucks’ sixth game in a row allowing 110+ points, including 135 to the Cavs last Wednesday and the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. We’ll see how the defensive scheme changes under Prunty (and eventually Rivers) in the games to come.

For Cleveland, they had an impressive eight-game winning streak before their loss to the Bucks. Granted, three of those wins came against the Wizards and Spurs, they put up a dominant performance against a Giannis-less Bucks plus took down the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic on the road. Donovan Mitchell is still playing like an elite scorer, averaging 27.6 points per game, good for sixth in the league. Mitchell has also played big against the Bucks this year, averaging 29.3 points and eight assists while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. The Cavs still have a strong defensive presence with Jarrett Allen holding things down in the paint, helping lead Cleveland to the third-best defensive rating in the league (111.0).

Injury Report

The Bucks' injury report is nearly spotless, with Giannis being listed as probable with back spasms, while TyTy Washington is with the Wisconsin Herd in the G-League.

Cleveland’s injury report is looking extensive, as they are still missing Darius Garland (jaw fracture) and Evan Mobley (left knee surgery). Outside of them, Ty Jerome is out with a right ankle sprain, Tristan Thompson is in the second game of his 25-game suspension, and Emoni Bates is in the G-League.

Player To Watch

Former NBA champion Sam Merill has found a real home with the Cavs this season. Merill didn’t get much playing time as a rookie in Milwaukee, only playing in 30 games during that 2020–21 season. The last two years he’s bounced around after spending a year in Memphis before coming to Cleveland last year, playing 11 games over those two years. Now, “Mr. Irelevant” of the 2020 draft has played 27 games and is averaging 8.9 points per game. January has easily been the best stretch of his career, playing in all 10 games, averaging 25.7 minutes per game while putting up 14.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and three assists per contest. The former Utah State Aggie also shoots a scorching 42.6% from the three-point line on 9.4 attempts per game.

How To Watch

Bally Sports WI at 7:00 PM CST.



Poll

Game 45: against the Cavaliers, the Bucks will...

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Win big (by 10 or more points)
    (37 votes)
  • 53%
    Win close (by nine or fewer points)
    (71 votes)
  • 11%
    Lose close (by nine or fewer points)
    (15 votes)
  • 7%
    Lose big (by 10 or more points)
    (10 votes)
133 votes total Vote Now

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