Tonight’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers has the potential of being something special for the Milwaukee Bucks, for two main reasons. First, it appears that Michael Carter-Williams will be making his comeback from injury. This is significant because it would serve as the first time that Milwaukee’s envisioned starting lineup of Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe all take the court together. It would also be Parker’s first game under his belt with Carter-Williams. Second, this game means a lot to the Bucks. They are going up against the best in the Eastern Conference in the Cleveland Cavaliers. By winning today’s game, they would not only send a message to the Cavaliers, they would be sending a message to the entire league.
It’s safe to say Milwaukee will have their hands full today against Cleveland. Obviously, they are going up against the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James. However, it’s the way the Cavs can attack teams from so many different angles. Kyrie Irving’s absence from his NBA Finals knee injury hasn’t slowed down the Cavs at all, as returning veteran Mo Williams has provided the spark necessary to keep the ship in Cleveland afloat. So far this season, Williams is providing a solid 16.9 points per game along with a steady 5.2 assists per game. Williams will be returning to his old stomping grounds in Milwaukee, as he was a Buck from 2004-08.
An eye-catching tidbit from Cleveland’s scouting report is their assists per game. They are currently averaging 24.3 assists per game, which is fourth in the league. Kidd and defensive mastermind Sean Sweeney will be looking to utilize the Bucks’ length by implementing their spacing in the best way possible to eliminate any open shots that the Cavaliers may intrude upon the Bucks’ defense. Milwaukee has had trouble locking down perimeter shooting this season, and with a team that passes the ball as well as the Cavs in combination with the shooters they possess, the Bucks could be in for a rough night. However, if the defensive scheme is correct, Milwaukee should keep Cleveland relatively lukewarm from beyond the arch.
Another tough hurdle for the Bucks to jump over will be the Cavaliers’ defense. Cleveland is currently allowing only 94.2 points per game, which resonates as the fourth best in the league. The Bucks have had a tough time scoring at points this season, and they can’t afford to have one of those games against the defending Eastern Conference champions. Cleveland isn’t only strong on the defensive side of the ball, but their rebounding is prime as well, as they are averaging 46.8 rebounds per game. We all know how the Bucks have had difficulty fulfilling the basic basketball rule of boxing out this season, especially in the heartbreaker in Denver a few nights ago in which Kenneth Faried put up Danilo Gallinari’s air ball for the win. If there’s a team you can’t give second-chance opportunities to, it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks will have to be strong on both the defensive and offensive side of the glass.
This should be a good gauging test for the Bucks. Not only will they have the starting lineup they envisioned at the beginning of training camp, but they have a magnificent chance of proving themselves to the league. You can guarantee that that mindset is floating throughout their minds right now.
Cleveland Cavaliers (8-1, 2-1 Away) vs Milwaukee Bucks (4-5, 2-3 Home)
Fox Sports Wisconsin | AM 620 WTMJ
PG Michael Carter-Williams
SG Khris Middleton
SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
PF Jabari Parker
C Greg Monroe
PG Mo Williams
SG J.R. Smith
SF LeBron James
PF Kevin Love
C Timofey Mozgov