Portland Trail Blazers (13-8) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (10-9)
Thursday, November 30th - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Bucks injuries: Jabari Parker (out), Matthew Dellavedova (day-to-day), Mirza Teletovic (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA TV (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Brew Hoop
The Blazers return home after going 4-1 on a five-game road trip. Portland has won three in a row for the first time this season, and would like to push it to four tonight against Milwaukee. The Bucks are hoping to close a four-game road trip with a win.
Milwaukee won the first meeting back in October, 113-110. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a dominant performance with a career-high 44 points and some key defensive plays down the stretch.
What to watch for
- Can Portland slow down Giannis? The Greek Freak is having a monster season. He’s second in the NBA in scoring with 29.7 points per game, while shooting 55.8 percent and pulling down 10.2 rebounds. The 22-year-old MVP candidate has a combination of length, athleticism, and ball handling that makes him nearly impossible to defend. No Blazer could slow Giannis down in their first matchup, although Evan Turner was the most effective. The Oregonian’s Mike Richman reported that coach Terry Stotts has said Noah Vonleh will guard Antetokounmpo “a lot.”
- Pat Connaughton as a starter. Stotts moved Connaughton to the starting lineup for last week’s game against the Nets. While he only played 15 minutes in that game, Connaughton has remained in the starting lineup in the two games since and has been productive, scoring 12 and 17 points in 37 and 26 minutes, respectively, while shooting a combined 11-for-16 from the floor and 5-for-7 from three. The Blazers are 3-0 when Connaughton starts, and his performance earned praise from Lillard who called him “the MVP” of the road trip:
It's not a fluke. I think that’s what I like the most. This is who he is. He's going to go out there, he’s going to take the right shots, you know he’s going to be in the right spots defensively, he’s going to be a great teammate. He’s going to do what the team needs him to do. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him, from our coaches to everybody on our team. We just know what we're going to get from him. I think the more time he’s out there, the more you guys are going to see how capable he is. And he's been huge for our team.
- Aminu’s return. Al-Farouq Aminu sprained his right ankle against the Utah Jazz back on November 1st and has missed the 13 games since. He returned to practice on Wednesday and is expected to play against the Bucks. Aminu will come off the bench and have a minutes limitation, but his presence in the rotation—especially on the defensive end—will be beneficial.
- A “Statement” by the Blazers. For the first time this season Portland will be wearing their alternate “Statement” jerseys. The Blazers plan on wearing them for each of the next four home games.
Statement. pic.twitter.com/ClJu4rgZ7w— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) November 28, 2017
What they’re saying
Writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Matt Velazquez discussed how the Bucks have limited opponents’ fast-break points:
Entering Tuesday's game against the Sacramento Kings, the Bucks had allowed the fewest fast-break points in the NBA both in terms of total (120) and per game (6.7) figures. It's a conscious part of coach Jason Kidd's defensive scheme that provides clear benefits as well as drawbacks.
“We’re sending all five back," Kidd said. "Everybody has a stat for something, so that means we’re not getting offensive rebounds. We’re probably dead last. But understanding how important it is, transition defense in this league to take the three or the easy layup away.
The Bucks have struggled a bit lately. At 10-9 they currently sit in fourth place in their division. ESPN recently included them in an NBA panic meter column. Nick Friedell put their “panic level” at 5 on a 1-10 scale (the same level as OKC) and has this to say about them:
Aside from the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo got caught on camera exchanging some angry words with an assistant coach, the reality for the Bucks is that the supporting cast around the early MVP candidate just hasn’t been good enough. Eric Bledsoe hasn’t had a huge impact to date since being acquired from the Phoenix Suns. Khris Middleton has had some nice games, but there are also times where he is a nonfactor. There just hasn't been a lot of consistency within this group.
But there is always hope when Giannis is on your team. He has franchise-changing ability and is only going to get better. The problem is that he can only do so much -- several of his teammates have to contribute more if the Bucks want to take another step in their evolution this year. The Bucks can't rely on the 22-year-old to carry them every night.