#663 Milwaukee Bucksvs.#664 Portland Trailblazers
Written by Matt Severance
Milwaukee Bucks (34-35 SU, 30-39 ATS, 36-32-1 O/U) at Portland Trail Blazers (32-37 SU, 30-39 ATS, 40-29 O/U)
When/Where: Tuesday, 10 p.m. ET, Moda Center, Portland
Spread: Blazers -5; total: 216
Both Milwaukee and Portland have plenty in common. For one, they are each battling for a playoff spot in their respective conferences — but even if they do get in surely would be knocked out in the first round. Second, the Bucks and Blazers both have been a lousy bet much of the year. Milwaukee makes its only visit of the season to the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday.
Milwaukee might be running on fumes here as it’s Game No. 5 of a six-game trip through the Western Conference. The Bucks are 2-2 on it following a 117-92 blowout loss in Golden State on Saturday. The Bucks were playing the second of a back-to-back there so not a huge surprise it was a rout. “There are no excuses, but we were fatigued and it’s the second game of a back-to-back,” rookie Malcolm Brogdon said. “If your second game of a back-to-back is one of the very best teams, it’s going to be tough. “Fatigue definitely plays a factor, but it’s not the reason why we lost. Guys were a little bit drained, especially playing a team that moves as much as them and passes as much. It’s just a test.”
The Warriors took control by outscoring Milwaukee 36-15 in the second quarter. Brogdon scored 18 points while Greg Monroe had 12 points with seven rebounds for Milwaukee. Monroe was ejected on Friday vs. the Lakers for shoving Nick Young, but the NBA didn’t suspend him. Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to just nine points vs. the Warriors as Coach Jason Kidd seemed to hint after that Draymond Green got into the Greek Freak’s head a bit with his defense. Antetokounmpo has joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1974-75) are the only players in franchise history to have 500 rebounds/100 blocks/100 steals in a season. Antetokounmpo ranks in the NBA’s Top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in 2016-17, and no player in NBA history has done this for an entire season. The Bucks have still won eight of their past 10. They currently hold down the No. 7 seed in the East. I believe they do sneak into the postseason.
Portland is ninth in the West, a game behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West. The Blazers come of a potential season-defining five-game road trip where they went an impressive 4-1 – including victories at playoff teams San Antonio, Atlanta and Miami. It was 115-104 at the Heat on Sunday behind a season-high 49 points from Damian Lillard. The Heat were the hottest team in the NBA coming into the game, winning 23 of their past 28 games. Lillard shot 14 for 21 from the field, 9 for 12 from 3-point range and made all 12 of his free throws. The nine 3-pointers tied a career high. Lillard’s 49 points tied for the 11th-most in a game this season. It was the most anyone has scored on 21 field-goal attempts or less, and he now has 1,002 3-pointers in his career. He became the first player in franchise history to make 1,000 three-pointers in his career. Since the All-Star break, Lillard is averaging 31.2 points on 49 percent shooting, including 44 percent from beyond the three-point line. During the Blazers’ trip, Lillard averaged 12.8 points and shot 62 percent from the field in the first quarter,
“I love the edge that we’re playing with,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “I think it’s more about the sense of urgency with the playoffs at stake and knowing that we have no margin for error. And I think Damian’s leading the charge with that.” The Blazers absolutely stole Jusuf Nurkic from Denver in a trade as he had another big game with 21 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in 29 minutes, making 9-of-15 field goals. A night after recording his first double-double as a Blazer, Noah Vonleh finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, reaching double figures in scoring in three straight games for the first time in his career. Portland’s closing schedule is fairly easy. Ten of the Blazers’ final 13 games are at home and just four are against teams with winning records (Houston, Utah (twice) and San Antonio).
The home team has won the past five in this series. On Dec. 7, the Bucks prevailed over Portland 115-107. Antetokounmpo had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Now-injured Jabari Parker had 27 points. Lillard had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Blazers’ 12 3-pointers in the first half tied the franchise high. The last time it had that many was 2002. The home team has also covered the past four meetings.
Portland is the eighth most accurate three-point shooting team in the league (37.2%), while the Bucks rank ninth (36.9%). The Trail Blazers rank sixth in the league in scoring at 108.3 ppg, while the Bucks allow just 104.5 ppg, good for the 10th lowest mark in the NBA. In nine career games. Lillard is averaging 23.0 points, 8.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds in his past five matchups with the Bucks.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.