Unbelievably, the home finale for the Bucks has arrived. It will be the final regular season home game Milwaukee host at the Bradley Center, in what has been a typically wild season so far.
The Bucks come into the contest in the East’s seventh seed, after taking care of the New York Knicks with Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined, on the back of a strong fourth quarter performance. The Bucks outscored the Knicks 35-25 in the last, en route to a 115-102 victory. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe finished with 22 for the Bucks, whilst Jabari Parker returned the the starting lineup to notch a 16 point, 12 rebound double-double.
Milwaukee currently sit in a tie for the 6th seed in the East with Miami, though the Heat hold the season tie-breaker on the basis of head to head record. The Bucks will be keen to atone one of their most embarrassing losses of the season, when they went down to Orlando on March 14, 126-117. That night, Jonathon Simmons went off for a career high 35 points, on 7-for 12 from beyond the arc, as the Magic scorched the Bucks from three-point territory to knock down 18 in total.
As a team, the Magic have lost 18 of their last 22, a positive start to the regular season petering out, as they look forward to hitting the reset button this summer. Milwaukee had won the first two contests in the season series before their slip up, and will go in heavy favourites tonight.
In what looms as a major boost for the Bucks, Malcolm Brogdon is poised to return to the Bucks line-up tonight after a long recovery from a quadriceps tendon strain. Brogdon hasn’t played since February 1st, and the reigning rookie of the year will be a major boost to a guard rotation that has been lacking in depth. Matthew Dellavedova still remains sidelined with his ankle injury, whilst Giannis would appear likely to play, after sitting out the New York game with some minor ankle soreness. For Orlando, Terrence Ross retuned to the line-up last night, though Simmons is questionable with a wrist complaint.
The Bradley Center era hasn’t brought the success the the Milwaukee faithful would have liked over the last 30 years, but with one regular season game remaining, the Bucks will be looking to see the arena off in style. With a playoff run less than one week away, it’s vital they find their groove at the most crucial time of the season.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Limit key players minutes: With playoff implications still on the line, the Bucks don’t have the luxury of resting key players just yet. Though, taking care of business at home and having the ability to limit the load on key players is a way of getting around this. Unfortunately, with the game on the line deep into the fourth, the Bucks played Parker and Middleton 35+ minutes, whilst the rest of the starters also logged 30+ minutes. Playing an Orlando Magic team eyeing off the end of the season, you’d hope you could limit the starters to under 30 minutes, and preferably have them sit out the last.
- Avoid another three-point barrage: As mentioned earlier, the Magic tormented the Bucks from the outside in their upset victory, knocking down 18 triples on greater then 50 percent from the field. Given the Bucks just suffered through a similar assault from the Brooklyn Nets, ensuring this does not occur again will be a key point of emphasis. Heading into the playoffs, the Bucks need to find a better way of defending outside shooters. Switching on the perimeter and reducing the amount of aggressive trapping would be a wise move.
- Ease Brogdon back: There is a legitimate case to suggest Malcolm Brogdon was the Bucks second best player before going down with a serious quad injury. Providing a calming presence on both ends, Brogdon provides awareness well beyond his NBA experience and will be a major boost on the eve of the post-season. It won’t be about stats tonight, it will be about easing the president back into the fold, allowing him to get his legs, and find confidence, with just two games left before the game one of the first round.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus