The Clippers take on a surging Bucks team that remains one of the best in the NBA despite some fall-off from last season. Check out the full preview for this nationally televised game between the Bucks and the Clippers below.
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Bucks
When: 12:30 PM PT
How to Watch: ABC
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverley – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Nicolas Batum – Serge Ibaka
Bucks: Bryn Forbes – Donte DiVincenzo – Khris Middleton – Giannis Antetokounmpo – Brook Lopez
Clippers: Patrick Patterson Questionable (Personal)
Bucks: DJ Augustin Questionable (Personal), Jrue Holiday Questionable (COVID-19 protocols)
The Big Picture
The Clippers continue to put themselves further from their early-mid February injury woes, and while they haven’t always played well the last week, they have at least looked healthy. With the rise of Terance Mann, and the continued strong play of Ivica Zubac and Lou Williams, the Clippers’ once-struggling bench is now performing well. Combine that with a recent surge from Serge (hah), and it seems like some of the Clippers’ individual kinks are working out. There are still some issues with stagnant offense, and the defense remains decent rather than great, but the Clippers are in a very good spot with the All Star Break approaching.
One season after rampaging through the NBA in route to an easy #1 overall seed in the playoffs, the Bucks are 3rd in their conference nearly halfway through the season. Now, they have a good lead on the teams behind them in the East, and aren’t too far behind the Nets and Sixers for the top spots, but still, it’s been somewhat of a comedown. However, while a lot of their advanced numbers are down, the Bucks have experimented more this season than they have the previous two years under Coach Bud, including utilizing Giannis more as a center and switching more on defense. While this has led to some struggles in the regular season, being more adaptable and flexible for tough playoff matchups will probably result in a better postseason record. Giannis is still Giannis, Jrue Holiday has fit in excellently, and Donte DiVincenzo is a legit starting-level player in his third season. The Bucks are still one of the best teams in the NBA, and a tough out every night.
Lou Against Length: Lou Williams has struggled against length throughout his tenure on the Clippers, and the Bucks are one of the longest teams in the NBA. He and Montrezl Harrell had several rough games against the Bucks the past couple years, which is part of why the Bucks have done well against the Clippers. With Lou rolling like he is now, it would be nice for him to show out against a good team, especially one that has troubled him in the past. Maybe by focusing more on playmaking for others he can shake himself loose.
Walling off Giannis: The Bucks’ most dangerous option on offense is Giannis in transition. Therefore, the best way to stop the Bucks is to keep the Bucks in the halfcourt, and to prevent Giannis from rampaging to the hoop. When he gets a head of steam he’s nearly impossible to stop, which is why daring him to shoot (and giving him a runway) doesn’t always work. Guarding Giannis is truly a team effort, requiring lots of help defenders to come into the paint when he drives to bother his shot and try to intercept any passes out. Of course, the key is being able to recover to the Bucks’ shooters, and the difficulty of that is why the Bucks’ offense is so good. Still, you’ll live with shooters taking semi-contested threes if it means Giannis isn’t getting dunks or going to the line 15 times.
Attacking the Small Guys: One of the reasons why the Bucks’ defense has sagged a bit this season is that they brought in several bad defenders to come off the bench. Notable among these are two small guards, DJ Augustin and Bryn Forbes. Augustin is questionable, but if he’s out that just means Forbes will play a ton. Forbes isn’t an awful defender, but he’s just too small to impact the game much and the Clippers can certainly pick on him. If they can force switches where he’s guarding Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, those guys should be able to eat. If the Bucks help, PG and Kawhi can kick out to shooters. The same goes for Augustin, if active. Also, when Lou is in the game, one of those guys will probably be on him, meaning that Lou should have a good chance to score on them as well.
Dragging Lopez Out: The key to the Bucks’ awesome defense the past two seasons was having the monstrous presence of Brook Lopez hanging in the paint with Giannis lurking as a shot blocker and in passing lanes. However, as mentioned above in the preview, the Bucks have experimented with different defensive schemes, and the Clippers can take advantage by drawing him out of the paint. Lopez, never the fastest player, has lost several steps, and if the Clippers can bring him out, they should be able to get by him and attack a now-empty paint. If Giannis rotates over, there should be someone open on the perimeter. Serge Ibaka will be huge here as well – if he’s taking and making threes, Lopez will have to abandon his spot around the rim and move further towards the perimeter.
That’s about it for this preview for what should be a very entertaining and competitive game between the Bucks and Clippers. Comment on the game below!