Milwaukee Bucks at Los Angeles Clippers Preview
Kawhi Leonard will miss the first game against the team he beat in the Eastern Conference Finals last year due to load management. That’s a bummer. But, there will still be plenty of talent on the court (i.e. Giannis Antetokounmpo).
The Milwaukee Bucks come into the matchup with a record of 5-2, tied with the Heat for third in the Eastern Conference. Their last game was a 134-106 drubbing of the Minnesota Timberwolves who were without Karl-Anthony Towns. The Bucks aren’t going to catch anyone off guard this season as they did during the 2018-19 season where they got off to a scorching start. Despite teams being better prepared to go against Giannis and his team of 3-point experts, the team is still at the top of the league in offensive and defensive efficiency. No Kawhi is unfortunate, but the Clippers still have a few players that could give Giannis fits.
The Clippers are still awaiting Paul George’s return from offseason shoulder surgery. They have an identical record to the Bucks (5-2) and have already given Kawhi some nights off. This team isn’t even remotely close to its peak. They come into this game after beating the Utah Jazz 105-94 on Sunday–a game in which the Clippers used a 40-point fourth quarter to pull away.
Time: 10 PM ET
Arena: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Clippers: Paul George (O), Kawhi Leonard (O)
Milwaukee Bucks Starting Lineup
The Bucks are riding on a three-game win streak heading into this matchup. They scored 134 points in their most recent outing in a game that didn’t require any extra time. Their offense was firing on all cylinders, scoring 31 or more in each quarter and shooting nearly 54 percent from the field. Their defense forced a lot of tough shots–they forced the Wolves to shot 36 percent from the field and 30 percent from the 3-point line. The Bucks outrebounded the Wolves 57-47 and racked up 24 assists on the night.
The start of the game was delayed due to one of the rims in the arena being crooked, but once the game finally began Giannis had his way all over the court. The Greek Freak posted 34 points and 15 rebounds as hapless Wolves defenders tried to no avail to slow down the superstar.
“Once you go out there, you have a mindset that you’re going to play a game, you’re going to go hard,” Antetokounmpo said.
All but two of Giannis’ makes came in the paint. No surprise there, but despite the fact opponents know Giannis struggles with his jumper he can still get into the paint at will–where he can either score, draw a foul or do both in the same sequence.
Giannis is off to another MVP-caliber start to the season, averaging 27.7 points, 14 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.6 blocks in only 31.7 minutes of action. His per 36 numbers? Even crazier: 31.5 points, 15.9 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.8 blocks.
Giannis has not slowed down since last season’s disappointing loss in the Eastern Conference Finals. He’s the leader of a Bucks team that is no. 2 in the league in offensive efficiency and no. 10 in defensive efficiency.
Los Angeles Clippers Starting Lineup
The Clippers had to fight off a poor shooting night in their matchup against the Utah Jazz on Sunday. Well, more like Mr. “What it do Baby?” himself fought the Jazz with his own two claws. Leonard did his best assassin impersonation, scoring 18 of his 30 points in the final frame.
The game was ugly; both teams shot below 40 percent from the field, the Jazz shot 32 percent on 3s and the Clippers shot an atrocious 22 percent from deep. But winning slugfests like this one bode well for a team that is counting on a deep playoff push where the games slow down, and whether or not you have a superstar that can make tough shots becomes vital.
“Great job, the last two games we just grinded out physical, hard-playing defensive games,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
The Clippers are only going to get better. Playing without Kawhi doesn’t mean anything to the Clippers who amassed a supporting cast of guys who play well as a unit with or without The Claw in uniform.
Lou Williams will be the go-to option with Leonard out. His pick-and-roll game with Montrezl Harrell has continued to devastate opposing defenses. Williams is averaging 20.3 points per game and 4.7 assists. Harrell is contributing a career-high 19.3 points on 73 percent field goal shooting.
Key Player Matchups
Montrezl Harrell vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
With Kawhi out the Clippers will more than likely use a by-committee approach to slow down Giannis. It’s always a team effort to stop a player this good. Antetokounmpo is shooting a career-high 85 percent on shots from 0-3 feet from the basket, per Basketball-Reference. What’s that mean? Don’t let him in the restricted area or he’s going to score. Harrell has the motor to compete against Giannis for a whole game, but he’ll need his teammates to be on time with their rotations if they are going to have a chance tonight.
Khris Middleton vs. Rodney McGruder
Middleton got paid this past offseason so the Bucks are committed to him as the second option on this team. Whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen. I’ve always been a big fan of Middleton’s game (I’m still a sucker for those darn inefficient midrange shots). The thing is Middleton isn’t inefficient on those shots; he’s shooting 16-for-25 (64 percent) on shots between 8-16 feet and 75 percent of those shots are coming unassisted, per NBA.com advanced stats. Middleton doesn’t just live in the midrange however, he shoots 41 percent on 46 attempted 3s, so McGruder who is an interesting 3-and-D type player will have to push Middleton off his spots in order to keep the Bucks other all-star contained.
Eric Bledsoe vs. Patrick Beverly
Any matchup that includes Patrick Beverly just has to be highlighted. Beverly talks. He talks all game. He’s talking if he’s losing. He’s talking if he’s winning. Sometimes he wins the battles he starts. Sometimes he loses them. No matter what, he’s always ready for a fight. Bledsoe isn’t known for keeping his cool when things get feisty so I am going to keep a close eye on this matchup and see if Beverly can get Bledsoe, who is struggling with his shot–only 23 percent from the 3-point line–out of his comfort zone.
Giannis is your star-pickup for tonight’s matchup. He’s never cheap, but his production in every counting category makes him a must-have. He’s available for $12k on FanDuel and his points are set at 58.07. No Kawhi means there’s a very good chance Giannis breaks the box score.
Lou Williams is a great value pickup on FanDuel. The guard is available for $6.7k with his fantasy points projected at 45.5. He’ll get opportunities to score even more in Kawhi’s absence, and his running mate, Montrezl Harrell (36.8 points) is available for $7k.
Bet on Matchup
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