What to Watch For: Bucks (13-12)
I’ve been counting the Milwaukee Bucks out with some frequency of late and they’ve continued to surprise. Solid performances in losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks were one thing, but the wins against the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns were even more impressive. Milwaukee hasn’t crumbled under the weight of a heavy Western Conference schedule. Will it crumble without Jabari Parker? My guess is no.
But Parker’s minutes will have to be absorbed and the recipients of said minutes must produce. With Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson still out, the leading candidates in the short term (on this road trip) are Khris Middleton and Jared Dudley, with the possibility existing that Johnny O’Bryant gets a taste of NBA action in Portland. Middleton has bounced around Milwaukee’s rotation over the past two years, playing both wing spots and a bit of power forward too, so logic dictates he’ll see the most significant minute increase with Parker out.
The timing seems good, as Middleton has been playing very well in the month of December, as you may recall from his dramatic game winning three on Monday night, which took place after the emotionally devastating Parker injury. He’s averaged 10.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 23 minutes per game this month, numbers that aren’t far off the pace Parker was setting.
So I won’t count the Bucks totally out once again, but I still hesitate to predict a win for the road team that just lost a player and is missing two of his backups. There’s a lot stacked up against Milwaukee right now.
What to Watch For: Blazers (19-6)
One of the things stacked up against Milwaukee? The Blazers are super good. There’s enough going on with the Bucks internally to question how they’ll perform and that’s before we get to the Blazers impressive roster, currently ranked 7th in the league in offensive rating and 5th in the league in defensive rating.
Robin Lopez is hurt, so he’s out. Chris Kaman has a wife who is due with a child any moment, from what I can gather, so he may be out as well. Currently, Joel Freeland is listed as Portland’s starting center.
But don’t think the Blazers are going to struggle inside. LaMarcus Aldridge is fantastic and he very well may feast on what remains of the Milwaukee Bucks frontcourt this evening. I can envision a scenario in which Johnny O’Bryant enters the game for the first time and finds himself matched up with Aldridge. Two minutes and three fouls later, we never see O’Bryant again. That’s the kind of thing LMA is capable of. He’s a dangerous scorer and certainly he’ll be a main focus for Portland against the thin Bucks.
Time – 9:00 p.m. CST TV – FS-Wisconsin Radio – 620 WTMJ
Blazers: Robin Lopez (broken right hand; out); Chris Kaman (human child; questionable)
Choose the Form of the Destructor: LaMarcus Aldridge
Seriously, I can’t warn everyone enough about Aldridge. He’s very good. He’s averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds per game. He shoots just 45% from the field, very low for a power forward of his stature, but I suspect he won’t be so quick to rely on jump shots against the tiny Bucks on Wednesday night. Milwaukee will likely throw a variety of defenders at him, including Larry Sanders and Zaza Pachulia, but at some point, he’ll have a smaller guy on him and Aldridge will have quite an opportunity awaiting him.
The Blazers are the type of team that will recognize a mismatch and abuse it until it can no longer take abuse.