Trying to stay one step ahead of LeBron: Bucks — Cavs preview

What to Watch For: Bucks (10-8)

Milwaukee’s offense has gotten slightly less putrid (99.8 points per 100 possessions, 24th-best) as their defense (100.1 points per 100, 7th-best) has become ever more penetrable.

Part of the reason for the offensive uptick has been the play of Ersan Ilyasova. He has scored 10 or more points in 8 consecutive games, tying him for the longest streak among NBA bench players this season (with Lou Williams and Brandan Wright, two other NBAers having resurgent seasons).

After a couple of games as the backup center, Ilyasova may be tapering back into a more normal role if Zaza Pachulia (personal reasons, probable) makes his return to the lineup as planned.

What I really want to see is how the Bucks react to an Alpha Dog from their own conference. Do they get stomped in the first quarter, only to mount a commendable — but ultimately futile — rally the other three? Or do they remember their defensive gameplan and make the Cavaliers work late into the shot clock right from the opening tip. Cleveland isn’t a perfect team, but when their shots are falling, they’re still a team that will have some very perfect nights.

I would venture to guess that Giannis Antetokounmpo will set a lot of the tone early, especially on defense. Based on his body language and actions this season, I feel like Giannis wants to be the one setting the tone too.

What to Watch For: Cavaliers (8-7)

The last time these two teams met (in the preseason), the Bucks tried playing Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard, and Matthew Dellavedova did a better job guarding Giannis than it seems like anyone has done in the regular season. So maybe it’s a good thing that the Bucks get a shot at the Cavs without Mr. Dellavedova.

I’ve also heard that the Cavaliers have added a player or two since last season, and a friend of mine tells me that these new players are quite good.

The Cavaliers have won three straight games by a cumulative margin of 70 points.

Logistics:

Time – 6:00 p.m. CST  TV – FS-Wisconsin  Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Zaza Pachulia (personal; probable); John Henson (foot; out); Damien Inglis (post-surgery — right ankle; out); Johnny O’Bryant (right knee sprain; out)

Cavaliers: Matthew Dellavedova (left knee MCL sprain; out); Anderson Varejao (rib contusion; TBD)

Projected Lineups

BucksBrandon KnightO.J. Mayo – Jabari Parker – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Larry Sanders

Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving – Shawn Marion – LeBron James – Kevin Love – Tristan Thompson

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Shawn Marion

Lebron James is the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week after claiming the award Monday. It’s an award that he has won 47 times. Since the NBA season is roughly 25 weeks or so, he has held the award for the equivalent of almost two seasons. Picking James to be the Player of the Week is like picking Amazon to sell a lot of stuff on Cyber Monday.

With that idea in mind, I’m picking Shawn Marion. He knows what he’s doing on a basketball court and even if he doesn’t make a ton of plays, I suspect that he may make one that breaks the Bucks’ collective backs.

Prediction: The Bucks Get Passed in the Central Division Standings, Mano a Mano.

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