“It’s just the regular season… it’s just the regular season…” While that might feel like the mantra for tonight’s game for the Bucks vs the Cavs, this is still a big one.
Tonight’s game is not the “end all be all”. However, it certainly will be a tone setter as to how this division might play out. This is a big game. Both teams are missing guys and not at full strength. Still, these are the two best teams in the Central Division.
The 10-3 Milwaukee Bucks take on the 8-5 Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night in downtown Milwaukee at the Fiserv forum. This is an important game for both teams as they try to set the temperature for who is going to take the Central division crown. (I could see Mike Budenholzer yelling at his kids to keep the thermostat down.)
Both teams will improve throughout the season. This is just the first of four games. These teams play again next Friday in Milwaukee.
The Cavs look a lot different this year than they have in the past. Cleveland made a huge splash in the offseason by trading for Donovan Mitchell. The Cavs gave up a lot to get him. ( Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen and Ochai Agbaji, plus three first-round draft picks and two pick swaps). So far, he seems to be living up to the hype.
Keys for the Bucks
Keep defending the three
The Bucks right now have made a major emphasis to limit the amount and volume of three point shots their opponents take. Cleveland is shooting 39.99999% from behind the arc and is averaging about 33 attempts a game. On Wednesday night this will be a major, key-critical indicator of who will win: will Cleveland be able to shoot the three at a high clip against the Bucks. If they can’t, that bodes well for the Bucks.
Keep rebounding the ball
As we discuss a lot in these preview pieces, the Bucks lead the NBA in rebounding volume. (50.5 total boards per game) The second closest team in the Memphis Grizzlies at 47.6 Giannis is 3rd overall in individual rebounding. Even their rookie MarJon Beaucamp is getting in on the act.
To break down that team number even further the Bucks are 4th in the NBA in terms of offensive rebounding and 1st in terms of defensive rebounding. If you control the glass, you control the tempo and pace of the game. The Bucks have done an excellent job of that so far.
The Opponent- The Cavaliers
There hasn’t been this much excitement surrounding the Cavs since King James called Cleveland home. This time around the Cavs have seemed to hit all of the right notes through the draft and have added some good young players.
Jarret Allen is a good interior defender. While he is not playing tonight he still is Cleveland’s true starting center, averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds per game. He’s 5th in the NBA in rebounding.
Evan Mobley is the same. Taken 3rd overall in the 2021 draft, Mobley is averaging around 15 points a game and 8 rebounds. He can play.
The backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland is looking very impressive. Garland just scored 51 against the Timberwolves on Sunday. Mitchell is averaging 31 points per game. They play very well together and Garland does a good job of distributing the ball.
Kevin Love is still playing for the Cavs. He’s playing about 22 minutes a game, averaging about 12 points per game and 7 rebounds. Not bad for the 34 year old.
Things to tell your buddies while you are watching the game
- Brook Lopez currently leads the NBA in blocks per game (2.5).
- Milwaukee leads the all-time series 128-97.
- Over the last ten match-ups, Milwaukee is 7-3. However, Cleveland has won the last three.
- A Cavalier is a lot of different things along with being the mascot for Cleveland’s basketball team. A Cavalier could be a supporter of King Charles I or a type of dog. But for the purposes of this team, it all came down to a naming contest in 1970. Along with the Cavaliers, other names that made the cut were the Jays, Forests, and Presidents. The Cleveland “Presidents” Basketball team: now that would have been wild. I can see the city edition jersey now…
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