The Milwaukee Bucks will travel west to Los Angeles on Wednesday night to meet the LA Clippers in what is set up to be quite a battle. The game will ESPN’s nightcap to Wednesday night basketball, right after the Warriors-Rockets game and is set to tip off at 10 pm. ET.
Both teams have played seven games this season and are 5-2 so far. Both teams also look like they will finish close to the top of their respective conferences. The Bucks average over 121 points per game, which is tops in the league. Both teams rank in the middle of the league in defensive rating and are one and two in field-goal percentage, 48.4 percent for the Bucks and 48 percent for the Clippers.
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer will square off against Doc Rivers in a battle of two veteran coaches. Budenholzer won NBA Coach of the Year in 2018-19, the second time he’s taken the award home. Rivers hasn’t won Coach of the Year since 2000 but has since won an NBA championship with Boston in 2008. The Clippers are favored in this home matchup by 1.5 points. The over/under for the contest is 229.5.
The New Look Clippers
The Clippers went out and grabbed two superstars this offseason. They signed former Spurs and Raptors 2-guard, Kawhi Leonard, and then went out and traded for Paul George. The Clippers are stacked up like a team that could possibly run away with the Western Conference while most of the Golden State roster is out with various injuries.
The Clippers’ two losses this season have come at the hands of the 4-3 Utah Jazz and the surprisingly good Phoenix Suns, who are tied with the Clippers in the West with a 5-2 record. Los Angeles kicked its season off by giving LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers their only loss on the season so far. The Lakers currently lead the Western Conference with a 6-1 record.
George has yet to make his debut for Los Angeles due to an injury but is increasing his workload to make his debut sooner rather than later. Without George on the defensive end, the Clippers rely on Kawhi Leonard and pesky lockdown guard Patrick Beverley. Leonard can handle anyone defensively, as he is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year Award winner and has made NBA all-defense first team three times.
The Reigning MVP
The Bucks’ reigning NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is already playing head and shoulders above the rest of the league this season. The Greek Freak was named Player of the Week in the opening week of the season and is already averaging 27.7 points, 14 boards, and 7.4 assists per game this season. He is completely unguardable and can lock you up on defense, as well.
The Bucks are coming off a near 30-point victory over geographic rival, Minnesota, and have only been beaten by the Celtics and Heat this season. They lead the league in points, rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage, and three-pointers made. The Bucks are second in free-throw percentage and sixth in turnovers, led in the charge by veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe, who is averaging five assists and only 1.7 turnovers per game.
Khris Middleton is off to another great start as well, averaging 19.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists, and is shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the arc. With Giannis shooting over 61 percent from the field, and Middleton shooting over 51 percent, Milwaukee can be tough to keep out of the bucket. Not to mention Kyle Korver and Sterling Brown coming off the bench for the occasional three. They are shooting 46 and 57 percent, respectively.
The Clippers Need More
I think this matchup comes down to the fact that George isn’t healthy yet. His size and defensive ability would help slow the roll of Antetokounmpo enough to be able to stay in or win the game. George has also made two all-defense first teams and two second teams in his career. Combined with Leonard and Beverley, that’s a formidable defense. Throw in the likelihood that Leonard will miss this game for load management, and Los Angeles will be quite short-handed.
Without a 100 percent healthy Clips team, the Greek Freak and his team will look to continue what they’ve started in this fresh NBA season, steamrolling good teams. It looks to me like they will keep it going Wednesday. The pick is the Bucks to cover the 1.5.