Portland Trail Blazers (12-10) at Milwaukee Bucks (10-9)
Dec. 7, 2016, 5:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out)
Bucks injuries: Khris Middleton (out)
SBN Affiliate: Brew Hoop
Portland will continue its five-game road trip by visiting the upstart Bucks in Milwaukee tonight. The Trail Blazers have been victorious in four of their last five games, which has soothed some of the nerves inside Rip City. Meanwhile, the Bucks have been on a tear of their own, as Giannis Antetokounmpo has captured the imagination of every NBA enthusiast.
Winners of four straight - before falling to the Spurs on Monday - the Bucks have been dismantling their opponents with stifling defense. Led by Antetokounmpo, they boast one of the most disruptive squads in the league. Milwaukee ranks inside the top 10 in both steals and blocks per game, which shouldn’t come as surprise when you look at the abundance of athleticism on their roster.
Outside of the Greek Freak, coach Jason Kidd looks to Jabari Parker to help carry the scoring load. To bolster perimeter defense, the Bucks will deploy the pesky Matthew Dellavedova to annoy opposing point guards. John Henson, Mirza Teletovic, and Greg Monroe comprise Milwaukee’s impersonation of Portland’s band of misfit frontcourt players.
Limiting turnovers will be crucial to controlling the Bucks’ opportune offense. Kidd’s hyper-aggressive defensive scheme translates to quick scoring outbursts on the other end. Fortunately for the Trail Blazers, carelessness hasn’t been an issue recently. Damian Lillard didn’t cough up the ball at all in Chicago on Monday, which helped keep Portland in single-digit turnovers for the third consecutive game.
Al-Farouq Aminu played 17 minutes in his return to action against the Bulls. It couldn’t have come at a better time for coach Terry Stotts, as the Bucks will attack the Blazers in the spots where they’re most vulnerable. Milwaukee is constantly trying to find ways to get Antetokounmpo and Parker opportunities in the paint, which is a potential disaster for Portland. Mason Plumlee and Aminu will have to be sharp while assisting on defense, or else the score could become lopsided quickly.
Portland’s bench is undergoing a quiet revival to start the month of December. Buoyed by Allen Crabbe’s string of double-digit scoring performances, the Trail Blazers have remained competitive with Lillard resting on the bench. Evan Turner continues to perform well against the teams he is familiar with, as the last three victories have come against Eastern Conference opponents.
Outside of a slight depth advantage, Portland will lean heavily on its 3-point shooting once again. Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard must keep their defenders honest, otherwise Milwaukee’s shot-blockers will be able to crowd the paint with little consequence.
Grabbing a win tonight will guarantee the Trail Blazers return home with a better record than their last five-game road trip. Milwaukee is led by the NBA’s most dynamic player outside of Russell Westbrook, so the challenges facing Portland’s defense are immense. Limiting turnovers and halting the Bucks’ momentum could present the Blazers with a path to victory.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!