Tonight, the Bucks begin their four game west coast road trip against the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that thoroughly dominated them on their own floor last week. Milwaukee will have gained some badly needed confidence after securing an impressive victory against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon.
The win against the Spurs competed a two game sweep, and moved the Bucks back up to the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks shook their recent trend of poor starts, racing out to an early lead with good ball movement and a determination to get out in transition. Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to the lineup after a one game absence and did not need any time to work into the contest. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Eric Bledsoe poured in 23 efficient points, limiting his three-point attempts to three.
Despite holding the same record as the Bucks, the Clippers find themselves two games out of the 8th and final payoff spot in the West. They do come into this one on the back of an extremely impressive 117-106 victory in Toronto, besting a Raptors team that was previously 30-6 at home. Leading candidate for the sixth man of the year award, Lou Williams led the way for the Clippers, finishing with 26 points of the bench, while former Buck, Tobias Harris had 20.
At morning shoot around, Bucks head coach Joe Prunty revealed that Thon Maker is likely to miss tonights contest, Thon later revealing to Matt Velazquez that he suffered a slight groin strain in a recent practice. Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova both travelled with the team but are not expected to play on the trip. For Los Angeles, Danilo Gallinari is still an expected omission, though he is getting close to a return from a broken hand.
The Clippers took out game one 127-120, a dominant 38-24 first quarter setting up what was a relatively comfortable night for LA, despite a late fightback from the Bucks. Los Angeles are desperate to push themselves into the playoff scene, whilst the Bucks can not be satisfied with their position in the pecking order. Tonight is a night full of possible implications for both squads, for Milwaukee, it’s important they start this tough road trip off on the right foot.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Stop DeAndre’s dominance: DeAndre Jordan utterly destroyed the Bucks last week. Finishing the game with 25 points and 22 rebounds, he added his name to the long list of opposition big men to enjoy dominant nights against the Bucks. In racking up a 14 point, 10 rebound double-double in the first quarter, he led the Clippers to a double digit lead and effectively ended the contest. With Thon Maker’s likely omission, the responsibility will fall on John Henson and Tyler Zeller to carry the load, with potentially even Marshall Plumlee seeing some court time. Whoever it may be, they will need to find a way to be more effective then last time, or else the Bucks will find the going tough. Very tough.
- Efficient Eric: Eric Bledsoe has been a somewhat polarizing figure amongst Bucks fans since joining the team in an early season trade. He is at times dazzling, as he mixes power with delicate touch in getting to the rack with ease. Then other times he will settle for long, early shot clock jump shots that clang off the rim and waste a potential scoring possession. Bledsoe can be dominant, and a real problem for opposition defense when he looks to be aggressive and move the ball. We saw that version against San Antonio, and if he comes ready to be the positive version tonight, it will provide an enormous boost to the Bucks chances.
- Healthy Giannis: Yes the Bucks lost the game when Giannis was playing, but it doesn’t change the fact that the two time All-Star was off the floor for the entire second half last time these teams met. Antetokounmpo returned at full force against the Spurs, and after another night off and some time in the LA sun, he should be primed for a revenge performance against the Clippers. As important as he will be offensively, he may be the key to helping the Bucks slow down Jordan on the other end. Providing help on the defensive glass will be key, an area the Bucks often struggle in. End of the day, Milwaukee need a healthy Giannis tonight to reverse last weeks result.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus