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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview

Milwaukee Bucks are riding high, can the Trail Blazers unlock the secret to bringing them down?

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (7-3) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (8-1)

Tuesday, November 6 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Moe Harkless (out), Nik Stauskas (questionable)
Milwaukee injuries: D.J. Wilson (day-to-day), Trevon Duval (day-to-day)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Brew Hoop

The Milwaukee Bucks recovered from their first loss of the season by dismantling the Kings 144-109 on Sunday. It looks like this team is thriving under their new coach, Mike Budenholzer, who is molding a lot of raw talent into a cohesive unit. Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo now has a supporting cast with skills and a scheme that compliment his strengths — namely, three-point shooters who can spread the floor and give him more room to operate in the paint.

The Trail Blazers are coming off of a blowout of their own, having shredded the Timberwolves 111-81 on Sunday night. Portland boasts a decent defensive rating of 104.6, good enough for fifth in the league. Bucks are even better, though, with the second best defensive rating of 100.1. Their eye-popping net rating of 14.6 points leads the league. It is going to be all hands on deck at the Moda Center to try and contain Antetokounmpo and limit the amount of damage his teammates can do as well.

What to watch for

  • How many 3’s will the Bucks allow? The Bucks have been generous this year allowing opponents 37.9 three-point attempts per game. Would you rather throw up a three or try to take on Giannis Antetokounmpo in the paint? The Blazers have only averaged 31.2 3 point attempts per game. Will they push to take more?
  • How many 3’s will the Bucks take? Last season the Bucks averaged 24.7 three-point attempts per game. This year they are averaging 41. How will Portland plan to guard both Giannis and this onslaught of outside shots? My guess is, it will be yet another busy night for Al-Farouq Aminu.
  • Return of Patty Fastball. After a few DNPs, former Trail Blazer Pat Connaughton has worked his way into the Bucks’ rotation. Over six games he is averaging 6.7 points and 4.8 rebounds. Bucks media caught up with him after he put up 13 points against the Sacramento Kings and asked him how he was feeling about returning to Portland:

Obviously it will be great to see those guys. It will be great to see them before the game. It will be great to see them after the game. But during the game we’ve got a job to do and I’d like nothing better than to walk out of the Moda Center with a “W.”

What they’re saying

Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that the Bucks are better on defense and sticking with the plan:

“I would say we’re really leaning heavily on just trying to continue to enforce our principles and really build habits,” Budenholzer said, noting that eight games into the season showing opponents adjustments or not showing them is much less a part of the equation.

Last season the Bucks were in the bottom five in three-point attempts while this year they are in the top three. Lee Harvey of Sky Sports details just how effective this shift has been:

The 2018/19 Bucks now look, almost exclusively, for high percentage shots close to the basket and bombs from three-point land. The big men they added in the summer, Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, both shoot three-pointers and space the floor. With a clearer path to the basket, Antetokounmpo is thriving, matching his 2017/18 points per game average despite spending five less minutes on the court.

Alex Bouder at recently detailed how the Bucks have been charging ahead in the second quarter. They have won the second quarter in all nine games this season by an average of 9.7 points and are taking an average 12.9-point lead into the half:

Even the Warriors famously wait until the third quarter to dust teams. It is early, really early in the season, but the Bucks are winning games early, really early.