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Game 82 – Milwaukee (44-37) @ Philadelphia (51-30) – All hands on deck as the regular season comes to a close

DellyTJ
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight marks game 82 of the regular season, and the final slate of contests league wide before the NBA playoffs. As always, the regular season has flown by at a ridiculous rate, it feels like just yesterday that Giannis was dunking on Aron Baynes in Boston as the Bucks opened up their season 1-0.

The great news for the Bucks is that they’ll FINALLY have each of their key players available for the first time this season. At shoot around this morning Joe Prunty confirmed to the media that Giannis Antetokounmpo will return from a two game absence, while Matthew Dellavedova will play for the first time in two months, recovering from an ankle sprain just in time. With Malcolm Brogdon’s return against Orlando on Monday night, it marks the first time that Giannis, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon will play in the same game. Incredible.

All they’ll face tonight is the Sixers, winners of 15 straight games and the current holders of the third seed in the East. The streak has come on the back of sensational rookie Ben Simmons averaging a triple double over the span, even with all-star big man Joel Embiid missing the last seven games with a facial fracture.

With Simmons elite ball handling and passing ability, he’s been getting out in transition and finding the Sixers shooters (in which they have many) at will, to the roars of the euphoric Philly crowd that are beginning to dream about an incoming playoff run.

The unique twist in tonights tale is the fact that tonights match up could well be the first of potentially eight in a row, with the two squads currently lined up to face each other in the playoffs. There are far too many different scenarios to discuss right now, but Cleveland, Miami and Washington are the other teams to keep an eye on tonight.

On the injury front, the Bucks will go in with a clean slate for the first time all season. Philadelphia will still be missing Embiid, with his timetable still unknown. The original prognosis would have him returning some time during the first round.

The Bucks were hardly impressive in their last two outings against New York and Orlando, strong fourth quarters allowing them to surge away to double digit victories in both. They now will experience a whole different level of competition as the playoffs essentially begin tonight. With the cavalry arriving just in time, the Bucks will be hoping it’s a sign of good things to come.

Kane’s Keys To Victory:

  • Work Brogdon and Delly in to the fold: Both Malcolm and Delly were hoping to be back a little sooner than this. Though, it’s better late than never right? For the Bucks, it certainly is, as they get two key rotation guards back on the eve of the playoffs. Both guys have been working hard at practice for weeks, and should have enough miles under their legs to not feel completely blown up on return. Outside of getting reps, the team needs to get re-acquainted with two guys that have played major minutes over the past two seasons. Whether it’s timing that perfect backdoor bounce pass to the cutting Brogdon, or sensing the release on a Delly lob, the Bucks have one night to fine tune these things before the stakes go up several notches.
  • Dishin’ Bledsoe: Eric Bledsoe has always largely been perceived as a scoring point guard. His explosive moves to the basket allowing him to score at an extremely high rate when he wants to. Over this latest 14 game stretch for the Bucks, we’ve seen him score, but also distribute at a very high level. Averaging five assists on the season, he has dished out 6.9 assists per game over that period. His ability to push the ball in transition, looking for easy buckets for his team mates has been a refreshing sight, and one that will elevate the already potent individual Bucks offense to a new level. Dishin’ Bledsoe is good. Really good.
  • Keep Ben out of the paint: Ben Simmons is an elite finisher in the restricted area. He’s also averaging 8.2 assists on the season. This balloons to 10.5 assists per game over the last 21 games. He’s adjusted to NBA play on the fly and is becoming scarily aware of game situations and what his squad needs him to do on any given night. For a rookie, this level of comfort is unheard of. The last time these two teams met, Simmons torched the Bucks early as the Sixers racked up a 20+ point lead. Simmons had 11 assists in the first half, as he picked apart the lax Milwaukee defense at will. In the second half, Milwaukee did an excellent job of keeping Simmons (and Embiid) out of the paint, nullifying his impact, and the Bucks stormed home to win 118-110. Simmons finished with just 12 points and 15 assists, whilst committing six turnovers. The second half, there is your blueprint Milwaukee.

Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus

Game 81 – Orlando (24-56) @ Milwaukee (43-37) – Bucks to host last regular season game at the Bradley Center

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(Photo: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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

Game 80 – Milwaukee (42-37) – New York (28-51) – MSG awaits Giannis-less Bucks.

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(MARY ALTAFFER/AP)

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks suffered through a rare inefficient night offensively in their disappointing loss to the Brooklyn Nets Thursday night. Returning to Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks might just be the tonic they need to forget about that outing. Giannis has become a regular Knicks tormentor in his short four year span in the NBA, and this season has been no exception.

Antetokounmpo completed one of the plays of the NBA season the last time the Bucks visited New York, leaping over Tim Hardaway Jr to finishing a Khris Middleton lob, to wow the sold out crowd at the worlds most famous arena. The contest before that, this time in Milwaukee, he drove to the rim and finished a contested lay up with just 1.9 seconds remaining to lead the Bucks to a 92-90 victory.

In further torment for Knicks fans, their unicorn Kristaps Porzingis devastatingly tore his ACL when completing a monster dunk over Giannis, ending his season and crushing Knicks fans spirit in the process. Fortunately for the Knicks, they will avoid the Greek Freak tonight, as he is listed out with ankle soreness.

The 7th seeded Bucks have somehow moved up in the standings since blowing a golden opportunity to gain ground in losing to the lowly Brooklyn Nets. Going down under a barrage of three-point makes, the Nets sunk 19 of their 39 attempts from beyond the arc to blast their way to a 119-111 upset victory. Giannis and Jabari Parker combined to shoot 13-for-42 from the field, and the Bucks struggled to overcome that rare inefficiency, as the stunned Bradley Center crowd went home disappointed.

The Knicks inadvertently helped the Bucks last night, by blowing out the 6th seeded Miami Heat 122-98. The Knicks dominated the game from the outset, on the back of a stunning performance by rookie Damyean Dotson, who finished with 30 points 11 rebounds, to be the first Knicks rookie with 30 points or more off the bench since Channing Frye accomplished the feat on January 6th, 2006, as reported by ESPN’s Ian Begley. The Knicks win allowed the Bucks to move within half a game of the Heat entering tonights contest.

Malcolm Brogdon is listed as a game time decision for his long awaited return, while Matthew Dellavedova continues to inch closer to a return for the Bucks, though he will not take the floor in New York. Sterling Brown is also out for the Bucks for personal reasons. Emmanuel Mudiay is out for the Knicks, Hardaway Jr and Enes Kanter are both questionable. Mudiay suffered a concussion when he fell out of bounds last night, making contact with a photographers camera. Hardaway Jr injured his left ankle late in the third quarter and failed to return.

With both playoff and draft pick implications on the line, Milwaukee desperately need to rebound from what was an awful performance at home on Thursday night. With just three games left in the regular season, they find themselves running out of time to gain momentum heading into what will be a real opportunity to advance to the second round for just the second time in two decades. Perhaps Madison Square Garden is indeed just what they need.

Kane’s Keys To Victory:

  • Center stage Jabari: With Giannis not playing tonight, it gives Jabari Parker the perfect opportunity to not only start but take the lead role in the offense. Parker battled through a rough night against the Nets to finish 6-for-21 from the field. As Parker’s minutes have increased, so has his offensive production, notching double digit scoring in 13 of his last 18 appearances. The highlight, a 35 point, 10 rebound effort in Denver last week. A similar stat line might be required to fill the gaping whole left by Giannis sitting this one out.
  • Be prepared to battle KOQ: With Bucks dominator Enes Kanter unlikely to play tonight, the next man up for the Knicks is Kyle O’Quinn. The physical 250 pounder is coming off a 14 point, 14 rebound effort against the Heat in which six of his boards where on the offensive glass. The Bucks rebounding woes are well known, and they best arrive ready to play physical against a guy who is not afraid to put on a body on his opponent. At 6’10”, the Bucks center duo of John Henson and Tyler Zeller will have the height and reach advantage, but they will need to ensure their positioning puts them in the position to take advantage of that length.
  • Start to get playoff ready: No Giannis is not playing, no the Knicks don’t have a whole lot to play for, but the Bucks need to start showing improved focus as the playoffs draw within a week. Against the Nets they were typically slow on defensive rotations and they allowed their opposition to find the range. New York attempted 39 three pointers last night, knocking down 18 in eerily similar numbers to what the Bucks faced on Thursday night. With plenty on the line, it’s time for Milwaukee to get serious.

Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus

Game 79 – Brooklyn (25-53) @ Milwaukee (42-36) – Bucks looking to keep momentum against Nets

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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Bucks struggled through another bout of late game jitters on Tuesday night, as they hung on to beat the severely undermanned Boston Celtics at home. They now face the languishing Brooklyn Nets in what will be the second to last regular season game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. It will be the third and final match up between the two teams this season, with the Bucks taking out the first two contests by an average of 20 points.

With the Bucks latest win, they moved to 42-36 on the season, bringing them to a tie with the Washington Wizards for 7th, and within a half game of the Miami Heat in 6th. With just four games remaining on the schedule, the Bucks face both playoff and draft implications down the stretch.

As a part of the Eric Bledsoe trade, if the Bucks record leaves them holding between the 11-16 draft pick, they will lose their first rounder. According to tankathon.com they currently sit in the 16th position right now, meaning every game is critical to retaining that selection.

The difference between winning and losing against Boston was as simple as Giannis Antetokounmpo staying out of foul trouble. Unlike the game in Denver, the Bucks had their weapon in the final few minutes, and he ensured victory was theirs. A mammoth chase down block off the glass with 53.4 seconds remaining on Jaylen Brown bringing the BC to their feet. The Greek Freak finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal, in a brilliant all-round performance. The win also ensured the Bucks were able to clinch a playoff spot with the Pistons losing to Philadelphia yesterday.

The Nets are looking towards the seasons end, with playoffs out of reach weeks ago, they have endured yet another long campaign. After starting the season 11-15, it has all fell apart for Brookyn, who have won just 14 of their last 52 games. Their latest loss, a 26 point beat down at the hands of the Sixers. The Nets defense has dropped right off, as they have now allowed the opposition to top 100 points in the last 17 games.

On the injury front, the Bucks remain without Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova, as their return from quad and ankle injuries respectively continues to get closer. Thon Maker was listed as probable before the Celtics game and was expected to play, but he didn’t see court time as Tyler Zeller and John Henson took the center duties. Maker is expected to be available tonight if required. DeMarre Carroll (hip) will miss for the Nets, while Allen Crabbe will be a game day decision after missing the last game with illness.

As mentioned earlier, there is a whole lot on the line for the Bucks tonight, a win is vital in importance heading towards the playoffs. The Nets have been easy picking for Milwaukee so far this season, they will look to continue that trend this time around.

Kane’s Keys To Victory:

  • No time for complacency: Unfortunately for the Bucks, they enter the final week of the regular season with plenty on the line. At a time where playoff teams may look to rest their stars, the Bucks simply cannot afford to do so. With higher playoff seeding still up for grabs, every game is a must win. Milwaukee have had some shaky moments over the last week, especially in fourth quarters and must not allow this one to get to a position where they could slip up. Giannis, Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker need to take over this game early, and ensure they are getting their rest in the fourth quarter.
  • Be aware the Nets will let fly: Brooklyn haven’t been a strong shooting team from the outside this season. They rank 24th league wide for three-point percentage at 35.3. Part of this is due to their willingness to let fly from behind the arc. They shoot the second most triples per game in the NBA as a team, and pose a legitimate threat to a Bucks defense that is prone to giving opposition offenses open looks. Across the first two games in the series, the Nets have shot 17-for-63 from deep, just 26 percent. Tonight is not the night to tempt fate and allow them to get hot. Be aware.
  • Build the big four’s chemistry: Until the Boston game, Joe Prunty has largely kept an ace up his sleeve. That is, playing Giannis, Bledsoe, Middleton and Parker all at the same time. We’ve seen it in spurts, but against the Celtics, we seen the quartet play key minutes together in an exciting glimpse into the future. Due to various injuries to Parker and Middleton, we have rarely seen these guys on the floor together. There will be some chemistry issues, but now is the time to work through that and find out just how damaging these guys can be. Offensively, it’s a powerful lineup, it’s time to unleash these guys as a unit.

Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus

Game 77 – Milwaukee (41-35) @ Denver (41-35) – Bucks look to finish road trip with a win in Denver

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(Photo: TANNEN MAURY, European Press Agency)

The Bucks will finish their four game road trip in Denver tonight, against a Nuggets team that blasted them off the floor at the Bradley Center in mid February. In what was the final game before the All-Star break, the Bucks were buried under a mountain of three-pointers, as the Nuggets scorched the nets, to finish 24-for-40 from deep.

Tonight presents Milwaukee with an opportunity to escape the road trip with a 3-1 record, though it was almost not the case, as they let the Los Angeles Lakers come all the way back from 21 points down to force overtime on Friday night. With 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, a Tyler Zeller hook shot put the Bucks up 95-74. From that point on, it became the Ivan Zubac show, as the regular bench warmer scored 16 points over the next 7:43 of play, to tie the game at 104. Both teams went toe to toe down the stretch and and bonus basketball was required.

Eric Bledsoe completely took over in the extra period, scoring 11 of his 39 points in overtime, allowing the Bucks to sneak away with an important 124-122 victory. It was a season high for Bledsoe who found the range from the outside, to knock down an also season high seven three pointers.

The Nuggets had an overtime battle of their own Friday night, outlasting the Thunder 126-125. Paul Millsap had 36 points and nine rebounds for Denver, as he hits peak form just in time for a Nuggets team that are desperately trying to get back into the playoff race. With six games remaining, they sit two games behind the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz in the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Gary Harris (knee) has already been ruled out for the game tonight, while Wilson Chandler (nose), will be a game time decision. As reported by Matt Velazquez, John Henson (finger) and Thon Maker (groin) both remain questionable to return.

Despite holding the same record, these two teams find themselves in gravely different situations as the playoffs approach. For Denver, tonight is do or die, while for Milwaukee, they will place great emphasis on continuing to gain ground on the Washington Wizards in sixth. It’s rare to head out West and come back with a winning record, the Bucks managed to do it last year, and they will set out to make it two years in a row in tonights crunch match-up.

Kane’s Keys To Victory:

  • Tone down the defensive aggression: We know Jason Kidd ran an overly aggressive defensive scheme, where he would have the ball handler aggressively doubled with regularity. Joe Prunty has toned down this aggressive tactic slightly, but old habits die hard, and the Bucks still find themselves leaving shooters wide open more often then you’d like. As mentioned earlier, the Nuggets knocked down a ridiculous 24 three-pointers in Milwaukee earlier this season, as they time and time again found themselves wide open with simple ball movement. Easing the help defense and trusting their players to switch, and defend one on one, will be key to stopping Denver’s plethora of outside shooters getting hot.
  • Helping the ‘marquee three’: The Fox Sports Wisconsin broadcast has coined the combination of Giannis Antetokounpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe the marquee three all season. They have carried a heavy load all season and it was certainly the case Friday night. Those three combined for 94 of the total 124 points against the Lakers, an impressive but unhealthy number for a team looking to keep their stars as fresh as possible heading to the post-season. Jabari Parker, Jason Terry, Sterling Brown and Shabazz Muhammad have provided an offensive boost of late off the bench, and they will be required to do so tonight.
  • Niggle Nikola: The dazzling Jokic had a first half triple double against the Bucks in February, finishing the night with 30 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, completely dominating the Bucks in every fashion of the game. He is an elite passer for his size, and can stretch the floor out to the perimeter. Antetokounmpo looms as the man for the job, and Milwaukee would be best to try and allow the Greek Freak to go one on one with Jokic as much as possible to prevent easy assist opportunities. As scary as the prospect of stopping Jokic is, they were without Paul Millsap last time, it looms as a tough night at the office for the undermanned Milwaukee big men, I hope they are ready.

Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus

Game 76 – Milwaukee (40-35) @ Los Angeles Lakers (33-41) – Bucks head back to Staples as road trip continues

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks secured an important road win last night, a rare one at Oracle Arena, taking down the depleted Warriors 116-107. Giannis Antetokounmpo was at his aggressive best, determined to get the Bucks of to a fast start. He finished the night with 32 points on 14-for-18 shooting, including knocking down two of his three attempts from deep.

The Warriors were already without Steph Curry and Klay Thompson heading in, and their absence was magnified when Kevin Durant was ejected for abusing the referee just before half time. Khris Middleton chipped in 23, while Eric Bledsoe had 20 for the Bucks, as they opened up a 23 point lead with 8:09 left in the game and held off the defending champions to notch their 40th win of the season.

Jabari Parker had 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Bucks, two of those points coming on one of the highlights of the season for Milwaukee. In transition, Jason Terry lobbed a pass to Parker, who caught the ball with his arm at full extension behind his head, before slamming it down to wow the Oracle crowd. It was the latest in a string of moments that indicate Jabari has indeed kept all of his explosive athleticism.

Milwaukee head straight back to LA, for their second game in four days at Staples Center. This time they will meet the Lakers, a team that is slumping down the stretch, having lost  five of their last seven games. The only win in that stretch have come against the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, two teams that are vying for the best odds in this years NBA draft lottery.

Rookie Lonzo Ball will miss the game for LA, suffering from a left knee contusion that he picked up in the Lakers win over Dallas on Wednesday night. Isaiah Thomas is out for the rest of the season after going in for hip surgery earlier this week, but Josh Hart will return to face the Bucks. Hart has missed the passed 14 games with a left hand injury. For Milwaukee, Thon Maker will again miss with a minor groin strain. Though at shoot around yesterday in San Francisco, he did tell me he “definitely expects to play on this road trip.”

Despite the win last night, Milwaukee still remain in the Easts 8th seed, one half game behind the Miami Heat and one full game behind the Washington Wizards in 6th. With seven games remaining, the Bucks can ill afford a slip up against a lower ranked team if they hope to climb those standings.

Kane’s Keys To Victory:

  • Run, run, run: The Warriors certainly helped the Bucks by providing little transition defense, but we once again were able to see how potent Milwaukee can be offensively when they get up and down the court. Giannis, Bledsoe and Parker are unstoppable when in attack mode, and Middleton, Terry, Tony Snell and Sterling Brown provide dangerous threats on the perimeter in fast break situations. Regardless of the Lakers defense, the Bucks need to emphasize running the ball and getting into their offense as soon as possible. When they focus on this aspect, they look elite.
  • Handle Randle: Like Jabari, Lakers forward Julius Randle is heading towards restricted free agency this off-season, and boy is his price tag rising. Averaging 16.2 points and eight rebounds per contest, Randle is bullying his way to a terrific season for the young Lakers, who now would be hard pressed not to give him whatever money he commands come July. It’s no secret the Bucks have struggled with physical big men this season, and Randle will provide them with a major challenge, particularly on the glass. In March, Randle has averaged 9.9 rebounds per game and looms as the danger player tonight for Milwaukee.
  • MVP Giannis: Giannis made his intentions absolutely clear to everyone last night. He wasn’t going to let the Bucks lose. He was attacking the Warriors from all angles, rendering them useless on defense. When he is in that type of mood, the Bucks typically end up happy at the end of the night. With the season winding down, and the Bucks desperate to win as many as possible, they will need this version of Giannis to show up every night, as the playoff assault begins. Getting out of the 8th seed is the goal, and MVP Giannis is the man who will make it happen.

Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus

Game 75 – Milwaukee (39-35) @ Golden State (54-20) – Bucks look to rebound at Oracle

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(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Bucks four game road trip makes it’s second stop in Oakland, as Milwaukee meet the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors on their home floor. It was a frustrating loss that kicked off the trip, as the Bucks fell 98-105 to the Los Angeles Clippers. A typically slow start hampered the Bucks, as they fell behind as many as 16 points in the second quarter, before gradually working into the contest on the back of a another MVP performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo.

In his second game back from sitting out with a foot/ankle injury, Antetokounmpo helped keep the Bucks afloat in the first half with four highlight reel blocks, and ended the night with 27 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and five blocks. In what has become a regular occurrence for Milwaukee, they once again had to battle back from a double digit deficit, to hold a five point lead with 8:17 remaining in the fourth quarter. They couldn’t finish off however, as the offense stagnated, and the Clippers offense caught fire from deep. Los Angeles eventually completing a 15-for-28 night from three, the Bucks unable to prevent good looks from the outside, as miscommunication on defense once more became apparent.

With only one night to recover, they now face one of the toughest challenges in basketball. Facing the champs on their home court. Golden State have faced the most challenging campaign of their reign of dominance, as injuries have began to take their toll on Steve Kerr’s squad. 3-6 over their last nine, their latest loss coming to the Indiana Pacers. Steph Curry (knee), Klay Thompson (thumb), Draymond Green (illness), and Kevin Durant (ribs), all missed the contest, as the Warriors were held to 82 points on their home floor.

Both Green and Durant are listed as probable for Thursday night contest, while Thompson has been ruled out, along with Curry who won’t return until at least the second round of the playoffs. For the Bucks, Thon Maker remains questionable, after a minor groin strain was revealed at shoot around before the Clippers game in LA. Both Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon remain out for the Bucks.

Golden State have won four straight against the Bucks at Oracle Arena, with the last Milwaukee win coming on March 9th, 2013. With Tuesday nights loss, the Bucks dropped back down to the 8th seed in the East, and find themselves still within reaching distance of the Detroit Pistons in 9th. Coach Joe Prunty was determined post-game to stress the fact they have not yet secured a place in the playoffs, adamant they must take each game on it’s merit as the end of the regular season approaches. Coming off a disappointing loss, there would be no better way to prove their mettle then to defeat the Warriors on their home floor.

Kane’s Keys To Victory:

  • Three-point defense: No Curry, no Thompson, no worries for the Warriors, who boast a plethora of alternate threats from the outside in their absence. Durant, Nick Young, Quinn Cook, Andre Iguodala, and Pat McCaw will have no issue with firing away from deep if given the opportunity. The Clippers were able to break down the Bucks offense time and time again on Tuesday night, Milos Teodosic knocking down a equal career high four three pointers in the first quarter. It allowd Los Angeles to bust the game wide open early, and make no mistake, the Warriors will do the same if the same lax defense allows them to.
  • Persistant Parker: Still not quite back to his absolute best, Jabari Parker suffered through one of his worst performances of his return so far at Staples Center. In 19 minutes of play, Parker finished with two points, on 1-12 shooting. Nothing fell for Jabari, as even wide open looks were struggling to graze the rim. It was a surprising performance for a guy who has been amazingly impressive since returning from his second knee reconstruction in early February. Perhaps unfairly, Parker’s importance to this team is undeniable, they need him to fire off the bench, especially so against the high powered Warriors offense.
  • Lock down Durant: As mentioned earlier, Kevin Durant is slated to return tonight. This certainly comes as a blow to the Bucks who are desperate to secure an important road victory. But, with their recent spate of injuries, the Warriors usual powerhouse offense has struggled, scoring under 100 points in three of their last four contest. With Thompson and Curry still missing, the Bucks have an opportunity to take advantage of a severely undermanned Golden State team. If they can lock down on Durant, they’ll force the Warriors to beat them with their supplementary options that have struggled to carry the load. It;s certainly easier said then done, but if they force Durant into taking difficult shots, they’ll give themselves a chance at a rare Oracle victory.

Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus