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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview

The Blazers look to get another win on the road against the Bucks.

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (10-8) at Milwaukee Bucks (11-8)

The Portland Trail Blazers face the Milwaukee Bucks in their third game of a six game road trip. The Trail Blazers are looking to capitalize on the momentum gained from a miraculous last second comeback spurred by Damian Lillard to lift them over the Chicago Bulls. The Bucks are coming off of two straight losses and will be looking to turn their luck around at home.

Monday, February 1 - 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBC Sports Northwest, NBA League Pass, or see games all season on fuboTV, follow on ESPN+, or the ESPN/Disney Bundle*
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), CJ McCollum (out) Derrick Jones Jr. (out)
Bucks injuries:
SBN Affiliate: Brew Hoop

*Blazer’s Edge receives a commission when you subscribe through these links.

What To Watch For

  • Star match-up. The Bucks have two players who are playing at an all star level in Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and a third high-level player in Jrue Holiday. All three of these players are more than capable of scoring over 30 points on any given night. However, the Blazers have Damian Lillard. Lillard has already proven himself to be capable of being a one man army, and he can win games for the Blazers even when it seems impossible. The Bucks have two of the best players the Blazers have faced since the injury to McCollum, and will be the toughest team the Blazers have played in 2021. Both Antetokounmpo and Lillard have the ability to be the best player in this game, but who proves to be better in this game could prove to be the difference.
  • Bench scoring. The Blazers have been decimated by injuries this year, and as such, their bench has had to dig much deeper than normal. With three starters missing for Monday’s game, the Blazers will look once again to their bench. Anfernee Simons has really stepped up recently, providing a spark plug off of the bench and helping to cover for the absence of McCollum. Both Rodney Hood and Harry Giles have the ability to score but are inconsistent. The Blazers will need solid contributions from both if they want to keep up with the Bucks’ bench. The Bucks’ bench is headlined by Bryn Forbes, Pat Connaughton, and Bobby Portis. The three of these players combine for 24.4 points per game. Whichever bench shows up in a bigger way could swing the game in the favor of their team.
  • Three Point Scoring. The Blazers have been shooting the three at the second highest rate in the league, at 42.4 attempts per game, but the Bucks are not far behind shooting 38.8 threes per game, good for fifth in the league. Both teams have the personnel to be able to win this game with threes, and the percentage hit could be the decider. The Bucks sit fourth in the league in three point percentage, above the Blazers who are currently tenth. Whichever team gets hot from deep early will look to use that momentum to get a win in this cross conference match up.

What Others Are Saying

Andrew Goodman of Brew Hoop highlighted the struggle of the Bucks’ bench in their loss Saturday night to the Charlotte Hornets.

Aside from Pat Connaugthon, Milwaukee’s bench stunk up the joint. That is putting it lightly, imo. Pat did contribute 15 points on five makes from deep but everyone else combined to score 17 points. Only three players scored off the bench and a total of 12 players saw the floor...that’s unacceptable. Bryn Forbes was a minus-31 in 11 minutes. An impressive disaster. However, I would like to see him inserted into lineups that include a few of the starters. There is no question Bryn can be an effective player for the Bucks, but it’s all about putting him in a position to succeed. So D.J. Augustin signs with Milwaukee and all of a sudden forgot how to play basketball? I mean minus-21 in four minutes is not good! Bobby Portis did add 11 points while making all five of his shots and he has shown us that he is going to bring it every night.

Jordan Treske of Behind The Buck Pass commented on the Bucks’ effective newfound transition defense.

The Bucks made a big bet in regards to changing their system on both ends of the floor. But they still have looked to marry the tenets and principles that have been dear to Budenholzer over his time in Milwaukee.

That comes down to simple stuff like limiting opponents in getting easy points in transition. Milwaukee are allowing 8.9 opposing fast break points per game this season, a mark that only trails the league-leading Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not only is that much improved from the mark the Bucks set last season at 13.6 opposing fast break points per game, but it’s notable for the fact that it has come with the Bucks putting a greater emphasis on offensive rebounding this season,

The addition of the dunker spot in the Bucks’ offensive system has opened up more opportunities for the Bucks to extend offensive possessions, which has led to them having a 29.3 offensive rebounding percentage on the year.

Andrew Wagner of the Wisconsin State Journal talked about the Bucks’ defense allowing threes, and how it has helped them and hurt them so far this season.

By design, Budenholzer’s defensive system lends itself to allowing higher-than-normal 3-point attempts. Though he’s tweaked things a bit this season, the primary objective is to prevent teams from scoring inside, forcing opponents to instead rely on their 3-point shooting to beat the Bucks.

For the most part, the system has worked. The Bucks have been one of the best overall defensive teams in the league over the past two seasons.

This season, the Bucks are still adjusting to the new defensive wrinkles Budenholzer has incorporated but the numbers tell a simple story: When Milwaukee fails to defend the 3-point line, it loses.

In Milwaukee’s 11 victories, opponents have shot 33.6% from distance, averaging 12.5 makes on 37.4 attempts. In eight losses, however, opponents have connected on 47% of their attempts, making an average of 18.8 shots on 39.9 attempts.