It’s a strange time for the Portland Trail Blazers. The team has dropped four straight games and its injury-ravaged roster is now down two starters thanks to a midseason trade. In the midst of this wonkiness, on the second night of a back-to-back, Portland must face MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks tonight at home.
The Blazers fell 96-93 to the inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder last night in their first game without Robert Covington and Norman Powell. It was Portland’s second loss to the Thunder in five days and third straight game in which its floundering offense failed to score 100 points. This will be Portland’s first matchup of the season with the Bucks who are-well rested as they kick off a four-game road trip. The reigning NBA champs haven’t played since they beat down the Washington Wizards 112-98 Tuesday night. They sit at the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference standings, but are only 1.5 games back of the top spot.
It’ll take a strong effort for the undermanned Blazers to pull off the upset win.
Saturday, February 5 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Cody Zeller (out), Nassir Little (out), Larry Nance Jr. (out), Keon Johnson (out), Eric Bledsoe (out)
Bucks injuries: Brook Lopez (out), George Hill (out)
SBN Affiliate: Brew Hoop
New Blazer Justise Winslow is available. Keon Johnson and Eric Bledsoe are out.
What To Watch For
Rumor Has It Injuries and a midseason trade have left the Blazers’ roster thin. How thin, you ask? Last night the Blazers were forced to trot out forwards CJ Elleby and Tony Snell into the starting lineup. The duo has scored a combined 6.4 points per game this season. So if the Blazers stand a chance against the defending champs, top players CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will need to lead the charge. Coincidentally, those two names continue to appear in trade rumors as the next players Portland might send out of town. McCollum has played in 563 games over the course of nine seasons for Portland. Nurkic has been a Blazer for six seasons. These could be the final days both of them spend in a Portland uniform. Do they have one or two more classic performances in them?
Can Anyone Stop Giannis? The Blazers had their hands full trying to contain Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis earlier this week. Now they’ll have to stop the far more dominant Antetokounmpo without Covington. Nurkic is too slow to cover the Greek Freak and the rest of Portland’s front court players are small, young, or a combination of the two. Antetokounmpo — who registered a 33-point triple-double in his last game — could go off for 50, but he likely won’t have to for the Bucks to turn this game into a blowout.
Greg Brown III Watching NBA rookies play comes with all the drama of watching a reality singing competition. They could be terrible or they could be wonderful. You just never know as they step up to the stage — and that’s half the fun! Greg Brown III is the next Blazers youngster to receive unexpected run time due to all the roster turmoil. Last night he was a pleasant surprise, scoring seven points in an energetic 16 minutes. Let’s see if the high-flying rookie hits the right notes tonight.
What Others Are Saying
With Milwaukee center Brook Lopez out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery, there has been great speculation that the Bucks will trade for a big man on the market. Mitchell Maurer of Brew Hoop states his case why the Bucks should sit tight on any trade offers.
At this point, the plan has been obvious from the start: the Bucks will either have Brook Lopez – the real Brook Lopez – back in time for the playoffs, or they won’t. There are still other moves the Bucks could make (Milwaukee is carrying one open roster spot, and is a prime destination for players ring-chasing on the buyout market) that might help in the postseason. It just seems less and less likely that the empty seat can be used on a center who will actually matter in May.
Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley also argues why Milwaukee should stay put at the trade deadline.
Here’s the problem: If Milwaukee was to buy, what exactly would it have to offer in return? In terms of trade chips, Donte DiVincenzo and Jordan Nwora are as good as the Bucks can do. DiVincenzo hasn’t been himself since June ankle surgery, and he needs a new deal after this season. Nwora is a shooting specialist who has defensive limitations and doesn’t offer much shot-creation.
Even pairing those two with multiple second-round picks—the Bucks don’t have a first-rounder to trade—fails to move the needle.
Lopez’s injury has forced Bucks forward Bobby Portis into the starting lineup. Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal writes how the move has hurt the Bucks’ bench unit.
While the team has climbed into the top 10 in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) behind a Defensive Player of the Year-worthy performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo and all-defensive team play from Jrue Holiday, the trickle down effect of Portis’ 39 starts on how effective the bench unit scores can’t be ignored.
Heading into a West Coast trip that begins Saturday night in Portland, the Bucks are 29th in the league in bench scoring at 26.8 points per game – a full point behind No. 28 Boston. Only Toronto (22.8) is less productive.