A quick, successful, one game road trip to Atlanta out of the way, Milwaukee returns home (sadly not to the Mecca) to face a new look Oklahoma City outfit at the Bradley Center Tuesday night.
Giannis was Giannis against the Hawks, single-handedly finishing the game in the first 5 minutes. In an astonishing outburst, Giannis scored the first 9 points and then assisted on a Tony Snell three to put the Bucks up 12-2, while the sparse Phillips Arena crowd still found their seats. In perhaps the most pleasing takeaway from the game, Khris Middleton was able to get going to the tune of 27 points in what was a visible lifting of the relief valve for him and the Bucks offense.
In starting the season 4-2, the Bucks find themselves amongst a log-jam of teams that have started well in the East and face arguably their toughest challenge yet Tuesday night. Reality is, the Bucks have simply handled the teams they should, especially if they are who they think they are: a home-court playoff seed in the Eastern conference. Even the opening night win, whilst thrilling, was against a Boston team playing on a back-to-back, and still coming to grips with losing all-star Gordon Hayward minutes into the season. Losses to Cleveland and Boston have me feeling that this game is the statement win the Bucks need.
The Thunder are still trying to find their own identity and how to incorporate two new stars into what was essentially the Russell Westbrook show last year. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony have certainly said all the right things publicly, but some questions still remain to be answered, the headliner being: Who takes the last shot?
In the two tight contests the Thunder have found themselves in, both losses to Minnesota, Carmelo Anthony has been the man to take the shot, nailing one and missing the other. All three players were respectively “the guy” last season, so it remains to be seen how this will settle out over time.
In the early going, Anthony’s stats remain exactly in line with last year with his field goal attempts unchanged at 18.8 per game. George has seen a significant drop in fga (18.0 down to 16.8) and points per game (23.7 down to 19.5). Russ, well, he’s taking 8 less shots and dropped 10 points per game, but is seeing a significant increase in efficiency, and remains on track to come close to averaging a triple double on the season again.
Despite the added scoring punch, rebounding has been an issue for OKC – they sit 25th in the league, reeling in a paltry 41.8 a game. I say paltry before i note that the Bucks sit 30th – dead last – at 38.7 a game. Adding insult to the Bucks frustratingly bad rebounding is the news 6th man Greg Monroe will be out for up to two weeks with a calf issue that continues to linger.
The lightweight duo of Thon Maker and John Henson face a tough task Tuesday night when they battle Kiwi, Steven Adams, one of the leagues most physical big men. Not surprisingly, the Bucks also rank dead last in offensive boards and subsequently second chance points. The much maligned (especially by me) John Henson is going to yet again get an opportunity at an extended chance at anchoring the team. He’s had an impressive start, I am however extremely hesitant to read too much into it. A strong performance against a proven center would be pleasing.
Keep an eye on the rebounding battle tonight, as well as second chance points. The Thunder have too many weapons to be giving up offensive rebounds, and the resulting open looks they often bring. If Milwaukee can somewhat reverse the issues in this area, it could go along way to getting the statement win they probably need.
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