After five straight losses and at least a few dozen social media meltdowns from the fanbase, the Bucks finally got their seventeenth win of the season on Friday night in a 98-85 victory over the Thunder. Tonight, Milwaukee will play host to the Sacramento Kings as they look to get a winning streak going and improve to 18-13. They’ll have to do it without Jrue Holiday, who will miss his eighth consecutive game due to covid. Let’s take a quick look at the basics before jumping into some things to watch.
FAST FACTS –
The Game: Sacramento Kings (12-17) @ Milwaukee Bucks (17-13)
The Place: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Time: 8:00 Central
The TV: FS Wisconsin
The Likely Starters:
Bucks – Augustin, DiVincenzo, Middleton, G. Antetokounmpo, Lopez
Kings – Fox, Hield, Bagley, and two other players
Bucks: Jrue Holiday (covid) is out. Jordan Nwora is day-to-day with an ankle injury.
Kings: Harrison Barnes (knee) and Richaun Holmes (foot) are the preferred fourth and fifth starters, but both are day-to-day. Chimezie Metzu is out with a fractured wrist. Glenn Robinson, a potential starter in the absence of Barnes, is, coincidentally, also day-to-day with a knee injury.
WHAT TO KNOW –
- Fox leading the charge for Sacramento
Fox is enjoying the best season of his four-year career so far, even if he probably falls a little bit outside of All-Star contention. He’s averaging just under 23 points and 7 assists per game. Those numbers put him in the top twenty-five in scoring and the top fifteen in assists league-wide. He’s shooting 5.3 threes per game, easily a career-high, though his 33.6% connection rate leaves a bit to be desired. Regardless, Fox has been the best and most consistent player in a Kings uniform all season long, and he’s the main guy to watch in this one.
- The Kings aren’t very good, especially defensively
Sacramento entered their Saturday night game with the Bulls tied with Chicago for the 19th-best record in the league, and they’re likely worse than the simple wins and losses would suggest. The Kings rank 25th in SRS and expected record. They fall to 26th in net rating. The offense is just above average, which means the defense is the real problem. It ranks last in the league. Sacramento allows more than 118 points per 100 possessions, and they haven’t done well on that side of the ball in a very long time. There’s no such thing as a sure win in the NBA, but the Bucks should feel good about their chances at home tonight.
- Buddy Hield a major shooting threat
Hield is shooting 10.3 threes per game, which puts him behind only Steph Curry and Damian Lillard across the league. His 37% hit rate is a little short of the elite accuracy we’ve seen from him in year’s past, but there’s no questioning Hield’s shooting volume or ability. The man can put the ball in the basket from beyond the arc. Milwaukee’s willingness to give up some looks from deep is no secret at this point. Hield might have a big night.
- Tyrese Haliburton has been one of the best rookies
Haliburton is another player to keep an eye on in one of our rare opportunities to watch the Kings. The rookie out of Iowa State is second among all first-year players in both assists and steals. He’s fourth in scoring, and he’s made more than 44% of his threes. LaMelo Ball leads all rookies in points, rebounds, assists, and steals and is well on his way to winning rookie of the year, but Haliburton has as much claim as anyone to that second spot.
- Everything will be fine for the Bucks
Bucks Twitter has been a war zone the last two weeks. There have been calls to trade Middleton, a concentrated effort to get the Bucks to trade Brook, and at least a few thousand requests to #firebud. And yet, we still have the 3 seed. We’re 15-8 when Jrue Holiday is in the lineup. We’ve played well despite shuffling around well over half of last year’s rotation. Even after this recent 2-5 run with Holiday out, the Bucks are in the top three in SRS, net rating, and expected record. We have a really good team, and we should be supporting them instead of tearing them down.
- Middleton going through a rough patch
Holiday’s injury hasn’t been the lone cause for Milwaukee’s rough patch, as Khris Middleton has also been going through a drop in form. Since putting 29 points, 12 assists, and 8 rebounds on the Nuggets, Middleton has averaged 17.2 points, 4.5 assists, and 5.5 boards per game. Those aren’t bad numbers, but you simply need more from your second option. What has undeniably been bad is his three-point shooting. Including the Nuggets game, Middleton is shooting 27% from deep over his last seven appearances. That’s terrible, especially for someone who tends to shoot about 40% from beyond the arc. There’s no reason to worry about long-term effects when we’re looking at a six-to-seven game stretch of regular season play, but the Bucks would obviously prefer him to snap out of this slump sooner rather than later.
WHAT TO WATCH –
- Middleton’s performance
Can Khris bounce back? This is certainly the game to do it with the Kings being so poor defensively. The Bucks should get him as many shots as they can early on.
- The availability of Barnes, Holmes, and Robinson
Robinson has filled minutes off the bench all season, and Barnes and Holmes are two of the team’s most productive players. They’re second and fifth in scoring and third and first in rebounding. Barnes is third on the team in assists as well. Sacramento isn’t great either way, but they would have a better chance if they get these guys back.
- Starting PG for the Bucks
Bryn Forbes had been handling the starting duties in place of Holiday, but that job was given to DJ Augustin last time out. Augustin responded with a relatively efficient eleven points, and he dished out five assists. You really don’t want either of these two starting, but the Bucks don’t have a choice while Holiday deals with covid. It will be interesting to see who Bud goes with tonight.
- Giannis on double-double watch
Giannis pulled down 19 boards against the Thunder to get his ninth double-double in ten games. It was his sixth in a row, which is tied for his longest streak of the season. Can he make it seven and set a new season record in this one?
Prediction: Bucks 121, Kings 105
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