Milwaukee Bucks at Houston Rockets Preview
NBA Tipoff week has provided some great matchups thus far, and we get another good one tonight as two teams who have been talked at as possible Finals participants are pitted against each other with the Houston Rockets hosting the Milwaukee Bucks.
Both teams have made a few changes over the offseason, but the most notable players on both teams, who also happen to be the two most recent league MVPs, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo, lead their teams into tonight’s matchup.
In their matchups last season, Milwaukee defended Harden well and made him work hard on the offensive end, and they’ll look to continue that trend tonight.
Time: 8:00 PM ET
Arena: Toyota Center, Houston TX
Bucks: Eric Bledsoe (P)
Rockets: Michael Frazier, Nene, Gerald Green (O)
Milwaukee Bucks Starting Lineup
Milwaukee enters the 2019-20 season retaining most of their key players from last season, aside from Malcolm Brogdon, who signed with Indiana. The Bucks are hoping new acquisition Wesley Matthews will be able to fill Brogdon’s role.
They also added Kyle Korver, brought back George Hill, who was a big part of their postseason success, and they apparently are now the team for brothers to unite, as Robin Lopez and Thanasis Antetokounmpo join brothers Brook and Giannis.
Point guard Eric Bledsoe, who had been day-to-day with an injury, is expected to start.
“He’s a huge piece of what we do,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “He’s our floor general out there. He’s the guy that gets everybody involved as a player on the defensive side of the ball too.”
Houston Rockets Starting Lineup
With Paul George leaving Oklahoma City for Los Angeles, the Houston Rockets decided to make a big move as things turned sour between Chris Paul and James Harden, so Daryl Morey made a big trade in the offseason to reunite Harden with his Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook since OKC seemed fully in the rebuilding phase.
While many have been critical and doubt the combo will work, any time you bring two triple-double machines together, that’s dangerous, and it should be a challenge for the defensive-minded Bucks.
Asked if the Rockets have taken any of their two losses into consideration in preparation for tonight’s matchup, Harden said his team was focused on improving.
“Honestly we’re not focused on any other team. It’s a long season and we’re going to have a lot of different opponents,” Harden said. “We’re just focused on ourselves and getting better and trying to find a rhythm and groove that we can get to that everybody is comfortable in.”
The Rockets also bring back Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Clint Capela. Veteran Thabo Sefolosha should help shore up the defense and the Rockets brought back Ryan Anderson after trading him to Phoenix several years ago.
Key Player Matchups
Eric Bledsoe vs. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook can be a problem for most point guards as his combination of speed and strength make him a tall order of a defensive assignment, but you can bet that Bledsoe, who prides himself on defense and made life difficult for Harden last season, is likely looking forward to this matchup. If Bledsoe can keep Westbrook on the perimeter or slow him down enough for Milwaukee’s rim protectors to provide support, that would be the best way to limit his production.
James Harden vs. Khris Middleton
While Matthews starts opposite Harden, I think Mike Budenholzer will look to another of his defensive stalwarts in Middleton to try to limit Harden and his infamous step-back three-point jumper. Harden, who isn’t known for his defensive ability, will have to stay sharp defending a player like Middleton, who can score from all over the floor, but he could also draw Matthews on defense.
PJ Tucker vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Tucker will have his hands full with the athletic beast and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is hard to stop if he can get to the paint, and he can knock down the occasional three, but Giannis one issue is a mid-range jumper. That became apparent in the playoffs. To take the next step and truly become unstoppable, Giannis needs to develop that shot so he can execute something simple like a pick-and-pop jump shot from around the free-throw line, where he often gets space as defenders challenge him to make the shot.
Any lineup that features the Bucks has to have Giannis as the clear stud pick. He’s a multi-cat dream for fantasy owners, and his FanDuel cost of $12.2k is expected to net 61.2 points. Bledsoe, at $7k is a value play with his ability to score in bunches and defend. He is projected for 32.3 points.
For Houston, James Harden is available for $11.4k and he’s well worth the price of admission considering that he’s a walking triple-double, and he’s projected for 55.2 points. Eric Gordon, at $4.9k and a projection of 24.3 points is a good player to round out your roster without breaking the bank.
Bet on Matchup
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