The Bucks and Clippers are set to square off tonight, for the first of two meetings this week. Both teams hold an identical 37-33 record, though it’s Los Angeles that find themselves in the more dire of situations. Milwaukee hold a 5.5 game lead over the 9th placed Detroit Pistons, seemingly comfortable in their position as a playoff team in the East. The Clippers on the other hand, are 2.5 games behind the Utah Jazz in the Western Conferences last playoff spot. With only 12 games remaining, they face a race against time to catch up.
The last time these two teams met was on March 15th, 2017, when the Bucks scraped home 97-96 at the Staples Center. It will be an entirely different Clippers squad this time though, as only three of the ten players to see court time that night for LA remain on the roster. Those three players are DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers and Wes Johnson. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, J.J Redick, Jamal Crawford, Mo Speights and Raymond Felton have all moved on from the organisation through trade or free agency in the last 12 months.
The Bucks are coming off a hard fought loss against Cleveland, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James went toe to toe in brilliant individual performances. Antetokounmpo finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, while Khris Middleton added 30 points on 5-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc. The Clippers on the other hand, suffered a 14 point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, dropping them further behind fellow playoff aspirants. Tobias Harris and Rivers combined to shoot 9-for-30 from the field, as LA struggled to 43 percent shooting from the field.
On the injury front, Danilo Gallinari may be in line to return from a fractured hand, in what will be a game day decision. Whilst for the Bucks, big man Tyler Zeller will be a game time decision once more, still suffering from back soreness. Zeller missed the game against Cleveland with the complaint.
With both teams desperately trying to gain ground in the playoff race, these two upcoming clashes are vital to both teams chances. For the Bucks, taking care of home court is priority one. That starts tonight.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Step back from mid-range: Khris Middleton has struggled all season from beyond the arc. A 40 percent three-point shooter coming in, he has languished in the low 30’s throughout. In the last six games however, Middleton has found the range. Averaging 24.5 points per game over that span, he has knocked down 54 percent of his three-point attempts. His last outing produced a 5-for-9 effort from deep, as he began to look to receive the ball deeper on the court. So often a mid-range specialist, the Bucks need him to continue to find open looks from beyond that mark.
- Stop the DJ: DeAndre Jordan was heavily rumored to be a target of the Bucks at the trade deadline. The interest made sense, as the Bucks have routinely been dominated by opposition big men throughout the season. The deal never eventuated, and now Milwaukee get their first look at the man they potentially could have had this season. Jordan is averaging 15.4 rebounds per game and looks the major danger heading in for Milwaukee. Limiting his dominance on the glass will go a long way towards a positive outcome on the night.
- Aggressive Bledsoe: Eric Bledsoe has at times been scintillating since coming to Milwaukee, other times frustrating. Against the Cavs he leaned towards the latter. A 33 percent three-point shooter, he finished the night 1-for-8 from beyond the arc, and far too often settled for outside jump shots instead of penetrating the defense to attack by finishing or dishing. Reserve guard Brandon Jennings did an excellent job of pushing the pace when he was on the court, racking up four assists in 14 minutes and the Bucks offense look dangerous. When Bledsoe is in an aggressive state of mind, he transforms the offense, he simply needs to do it more often.
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