With the Doc Rivers regime underway, the Milwaukee Bucks continue their road trip out west with a visit to the Portland Trail Blazers. For Damian Lillard, it will be assuredly be an emotional rollercoaster mixing pride in the things he accomplished as a Blazer and, crucially, the life he spent over a decade building with the new chapter he began writing last summer. While neither he nor Blazers fans may have expected a homecoming like this, a sense of mutual respect and admiration is likely to dominate pre-game festivities.
Where We’re At
Milwaukee is 0-1 under Rivers’s command, although their first outing ended with a respectable final score in a 107-113 loss on the road to the defending-champion Denver Nuggets. Much lamentation followed Bobby Portis’s 2/13 shooting night as he registered the team’s second-highest usage rate, although one wonders whether an extremely short bench was Doc’s way of putting the roster core through its paces to see what he’s working with. On the upside, the Bucks defense has taken a strong step forward over the last four games since Adrian Griffin’s firing rating-wise; the question is, will it stick?
For Portland, the season has moved along expected lines as the franchise embarks on a full rebuild post-Lillard. They pantsed the Joel Embiid-less Sixers on Monday night, 104-130, with former Bucks Malcolm Brogdon leading the way with an efficient 24 point, 9 assist outing. Rookie Scoot Henderson has been a bit erratic with bad shooting splits, a 4.6:3.0 AST:TO ratio, and an inability to force his way into the starting lineup, but it may be ultimately beneficial if the 19 year-old is eased into his NBA career rather than forced to be the man earlier than necessary. Otherwise, their offense is very bad (a good test of the new-vibe Bucks defense to keep Portland’s offense quiet) and the defense isn’t much better, and the Blazers will almost assuredly be sellers at the trade deadline in a week’s time.
This will be the second and last time these teams meet this season, with the first matchup going Milwaukee’s way in a come-from-way-behind win on November 26th. Lillard was middling in that affair despite his final 31 points, so here’s hoping he gets right for his big night.
The Bucks head into tonight with a clean bill of health (TyTy Washington is on Herd duty), while the Blazers will miss Shaedon Sharpe (lower abdominal strain), Robert Williams III (right knee ligament tear), and Moses Brown (left wright fracture).
Player to Watch
Simple one to pick here, even though we normally avoid choosing star players in this category. It’s Damian Lillard. I genuinely hope he enjoys himself — can only imagine the complex of emotions he’ll be dealing with all day into tonight.
How to Watch
Bally Sports WI and ESPN at 9:00 PM CST.
Game 48: Against the Trail Blazers, the Bucks will...
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