After an extended break over the All-Star weekend, Milwaukee returned to the court Friday night and produced possibly their best performance of the season. It was was a classic contest, as the Bucks fought back in overtime to clinch a 122-119 victory in Toronto, on the back of some clutch Giannis Antetokounmpo magic.
A Sunday afternoon matinee awaits, as Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans make their lone trip to the Cream City. Clinging on to the Western Conferences last playoff spot, the Pelicans are just one game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers. After losing DeMarcus Cousins to a season ending achilles injury, it was widely assumed they would fall well out of playoff contention. To this point Davis is doing his absolute best to prove that thought a fallacy.
Cousins tore his achilles in the dying moments of the Pelicans huge 115-113 win over the Houston Rockets. Directly after that game, they went on to lose five of their next six games, falling close to the .500 mark on the season. However, they have since steadied to win four straight, thanks to some ridiculous Davis dominance. Averaging 42.2 points, 14.7 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 47% shooting from deep over the four game span, Davis is simply destroying their opposition.
In what has become one of the more highly anticipated individual match ups across the league, Davis and Antetokounmpo figure to go head to head for a large part of the night as two of the leagues premier two way players square off.
Giannis was incredible in overtime Friday night, knocking down two huge jump shots and producing one of the assists of the season for Jason Terry (see below). He will need to be at his best on both ends to help contain the Brow, who looks a nightmare matchup for John Henson, Thon Maker and Tyler Zeller.
No new injuries for the Bucks was a welcome sight, as they will go into this one with only the known casualties in Matthew Dellacedova (ankle) and Malcolm Brogdon (quad) still on the sidelines. For the Pelicans, obviously Cousins is the huge omission, while Solomon Hill will also miss with a hamstring complaint.
Milwaukee are 2-7 against New Orleans since they became the Pelicans for the 2013-14 season and the Bradley Center hasn’t provided much joy as they have lost three out of four on their home floor. With both teams about to enter the last quarter of the season, the stakes are high.
Freak v Brow. What more could you want on a Sunday afternoon?
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Box Out Brow: As mentioned earlier, Davis is on an absolute tear right now. Confidence is at an all-time high and the Bucks will need to do anything legally possible to slow him down. Milwaukee has had issues rebounding the ball all season and facing one of the leagues premier rebounding big men spells danger. Henson, Maker and Zeller will not be able to contain Davis all on their own but if they can focus on corralling the Brow away from the glass, the remaining Bucks will need to aggressively chase rebounds in order to prevent second and third chance opportunities. Davis is unbelievably hard to stop at the best of times, he becomes even more so if you allow him to do as he pleases in the paint.
- Maintain Momentum: With the win against Toronto, the Bucks improved to 10-3 under interim coach Joe Prunty. One knock on the Bucks during the stretch was the light schedule they faced in that time. With a statement win in the bag, Milwaukee will now look to gain another impressive victory against an above .500 team. Before the win in Toronto, the Bucks were 12-18 against opponents with a winning record. That is not exactly a number you’d like to see heading into the playoffs. They gained some serious momentum in pulling out a signature victory Friday, a fast start in this one and a second consecutive notable win will put the rest of the East on notice. A notoriously slow afternoon start could prove costly.
- Defend The Perimeter: In their first meeting back in December, the Bucks went down 108-115. They had no troubles penetrating the Pelicans defense to score their own buckets, but on the other end, awful three point defense destroyed any hopes of victory. New Orleans finished the game shooting 52 percent from beyond the arc as the Bucks time and time again left their men to help trap the ball handler, only to be burnt by good ball movement. We know the Bucks defensive aggressiveness has been toned down under Prunty, but aggressively defending Davis could prove costly. It’s a pick your poison type situation, but Milwaukee need to time their attack point if they are going to double down low. Be smart.
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