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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview

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Portland hopes to keep it going in the face of Giannis.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (29-18) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (30-17)

The Portland Trail Blazers are back at home in the Moda Center taking on the Milwaukee Bucks. The Blazers return from a 4-0 road trip while the Bucks have only won 1 of their last 4 games. The two teams are just one game apart, but Milwaukee is the favorite to win. That’s never stopped Portland, and with the streak they’re on, they just might pull off another win.

Friday, April 2 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA TV or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Nassir Little (out)
Bucks injuries: Rodions Kurucs (out), P.J. Tucker (out), Bobby Portis (out), Jeff Teague (out)
SBN Affiliate: Brew Hoop

What To Watch For

  • Three guard rotation. Portland’s newest guard, Norman Powell, has been making waves — and shots. The former Toronto Raptor was a somewhat surprising move for the team, but has proven to be an asset for Portland’s starting line up. Running a three guard rotation has been an unexpected move by Head Coach Terry Stotts, but it seems to be working. It’s also proven to be very fun to watch Powell play alongside the Blazers’ established stars, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
  • Jusuf Nurkic. The big man is back, and he seems to be close to his normal Nurkic self. He had a rocky start to the season, even though he was physically healthy. But since coming back from yet another injury, Nurkic seems to be getting back to normal. It’s a normal that Portland needs, as he is a big part of the Blazers’ defensive strategy. We know Nurkic and Lillard play off each other well, but another beautiful outcome of Portland’s recent trade is how Powell and Nurkic seem to be playing off one another.
  • Bucks Defense. Portland’s defense has been lacking a lot this season. While the team is at the top of the league offensively, they’re all the way at the bottom when it comes to defense. The Bucks, however, are a defensive force to be reckoned with. This could prove to be a setback for the offense-heavy Blazers.

What Others Are Saying

Norman Powell is finding his place on the Portland roster. Casey Hodahl writes about it for NBA.com:

It’s hard to argue with the results — Portland is 3-0 since acquiring Powell— nor does it seem like the 6-3 guard/forward has only been with the team for less than a week rather than months.

In three games, all starts, Powell is averaging 16.3 points on 52 percent shooting from the field and 58 percent shooting from three, 2,7 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.0 assists and 1.0 blocks in 32.1 minutes. His defensive rating is 101.5, seven points better than the next closest teammate, and his offensive rating of 119.4 is first on the team, though it’s only ever so slightly higher than Damian Lillard’s, who is in the midst of a historically efficient season.

Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian talked about the Blazers’ defense and the need for improvement:

“The thing that I feel the best about, regardless of what people say about our defense, it feels like it’s improving,” Lillard said. “I think we’ve had a few dominant stretches on the defensive end without us playing great offensively.”

Lillard pointed out that the team has competed and played well defensively for some long stretches, even if not for the majority of games. The Blazers held Detroit to 19 points in the second quarter and 22 in the fourth. During Sunday’s 122-117 win against Toronto, the Blazers held the Raptors to 10 points in the third quarter. With the score at 94-94 Friday at Orlando with 6:31 to play, the Blazers held the Magic to 11 points the rest of the way.

“Those are signs of growth,” Lillard said. “We just have to continue putting it together.”