What to Watch For: Bucks (18-18)
Basically, shooting. The Bucks are coming off of a horrific 3-20 three-point shooting performance in yesterday’s loss to the Suns, a game in which only Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton converted triples. While one would hope that this is just a passing trend, the Bucks have reverted to shooting 43% from the floor and just over 23% from three after a league-leading December in which they shot 48% and 40%, respectively. Without many established post players, the team has thrived on fast breaks and sharpshooting to provide points; if the three-point shooting falls off as well, there’s reason to be worried that the Bucks will slip back into an offensive funk.
It’s also worth noting that Larry Sanders will not make the trip to Philadelphia with the team as he continues to deal with personal issues. We continue to wish him the best going forward.
On the bright side, the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo has continued to delight and inspire the masses. His 16 points and 12 rebounds on Tuesday represented the second half of his first-ever back-to-back set of double-doubles as we watched everyone’s favorite young Bucks do more cool stuff. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of that to come.
What to Watch For: 76ers (5-28)
Don’t let the stunning home win over a limping Cavaliers team fool you–the Sixers are still baaaaad. They’ve reverted to near the bottom of the league in offense (last in points per game), defense (25th in points allowed), and assists (26th in assists per game), betraying exactly how bare they’ve stripped their roster in the hunt for ping pong balls. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams has returned, at least, from injury, and is up to roughly the same tricks that he was last year—averaging a robust 15 points, 7.5 assists, and 6 rebounds per game while also producing 4.5 turnovers per contest. Still, he and rookie K.J. McDaniels have provided a spark in what would otherwise be yet another lost season in Sam Hinkie’s dramatic overhaul efforts.
Additionally, third-year guard Tony Wroten has been on a scoring binge, collecting over 20 points in 5 of the Sixers’ last 6 games. Freed from starting guard duties by Carter-Williams’ return, Wroten has become a potent scoring threat off the bench. He’s actually Key to stopping him will be to limit driving opportunities and forcing him to shoot from beyond the arc, where he’s a dismal yet eager 27% shooter on nearly 5 attempts per game. There will be times when he gets hot and burns teams with three-pointers, but those are the shots you’ll live with. He’s also a turnover machine, which, when paired with Carter-Williams’ poor ball security, will present the Bucks with myriad opportunities to create takeaways and turn those steals into points.
Time – 6:00 p.m. CST TV – FS Wisconsin Radio – 620 WTMJ
Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova (concussion; out); Larry Sanders (“illness”; out); Jabari Parker (left ACL tear; out); Damien Inglis (post-surgery – right ankle; out)
Sixers: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (turf toe; questionable); Hollis Thompson (upper respiratory infection; out)
Bucks: Brandon Knight – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Johnny O’Bryant – Zaza Pachulia
Sixers: Michael Carter-Williams – K.J. McDaniels – Robert Covington – Nerlens Noel – Henry Sims
Choose the Form of the Destructor: Nerlens Noel
While he’s not exactly a post-up threat, Noel has already shown prowess in the rebounding and defending aspects of the NBA game. In the first meeting between these two teams—one of his first real NBA contests—Noel snagged 10 rebounds and proved effective at cleaning up the offensive glass for a number of putback dunks and layups. His offensive game is as of yet unrefined, but it’s easy to see him as a young, possibly more even-tempered Larry Sanders-esque player on his way to being a defensive game-changer. Against a Bucks team that’s going to continue to lack much impact from the post positions, it’s easy to see Noel having another impressive night.