Carrying a 1-3 record in 2024, the Milwaukee Bucks return to Fiserv Forum to face the Utah Jazz in the first of a four-game home stand. The trouble? Milwaukee will be without both their starting and backup point guards in this tilt.
Where We’re At
A case of too little, too late plagued the Bucks in their most recent outing — a 108-112 loss to the Houston Rockets. And that loss had some parallels to the team’s punking at the hands of the Indiana Pacers inasmuch as small ball lineups led the way in the second half to make the final score a bit more respectable. Milwaukee’s problems in the past five games run the gamut from a continually bad defense (19th in the league for the season, 21st over the last five), a newly mediocre offense (115.1 ORTG in the last five, 17th in the NBA), Damian Lillard average-classes (37.1 MPG, 22.0 points on .388(lol)/.189(lol)/.902) and 6.4 assists), and a bench that has gotten into the habit of providing no scoring punch at all. That’s good news for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s raw statistical totals, but bad news for the team’s overall success. With no rotation PGs available tonight, Giannis and Khris Middleton will have their playmaking abilities pushed front and center.
For the Jazz, both offense and defense has been bottom-third on the season as the rebuild continues apace. However, they’re 8-3 over their last 11 games with wins over Miami, Dallas, and Philadelphia with the 8th-best defense in that stretch (113.3) and above-average offense as well (118.1). Their last game was a 120-109 road win over the Sixers this past Saturday (with Joel Embiid unavailable, it should be noted). Lauri Markkanen remains the standout (23.6 points, 8.4 rebounds) since arriving a year ago via trade, Jordan Clarkson is doing his gunner thing while carrying the worst 3P% of his career, rookie Keyonte George is exceeding expectations by handling solid rotation minutes, Walker Kessler is a solid big man even having taken a small step back, and their guard corps isn’t anything to overlook, either. While they lack a superstar to link the whole together towards sustained season-long winning, there is more than enough talent to make them a threat to a slightly reeling Bucks team.
Milwaukee will be without Lillard (personal reasons), Cam Payne (concussion protocol) and Jae Crowder (adductor surgery rehab) while the Jazz have nothing to report for non-G-League players.
Player to Watch
I’ll shoot my shot and predict that not only will Andre Jackson Jr. get the start — he will prove decisive to the Bucks chances of success. His particular combination of playmaking and perimeter defense will be crucial to keep the offense moving and holding the perimeter defense together against a decent group of guards like Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, and Keyonte George.
For Utah, we’ll go back to those very guards and spotlight Collin Sexton as one to keep an eye on. He has speed, is happy attacking the paint (even as his 3PAr has crept to a career-high), and is creating for others at the best clip as a pro. Keeping him somewhat in check should help alleviate pressure on Milwaukee’s defense while the offense figures out ways to remain competitive without true PGs of their own.
How to Watch
Bally Sports WI at 7:00 PM CST
Game 37: Against the Jazz, the Bucks will...
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