The Oklahoma City Thunder face an ever dangerous Milwaukee Bucks squad tonight from the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Though .500, Milwaukee's duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker represent one of the NBA’s most daunting tandem matchups. Tonight, Andre Roberson and Domantas Sabonis must prove capable of disengaging this imposing threat.
Undoubtedly, Antetokounmpo's protean 6'11 frame will probe each centimeter of the 6'7 Roberson's stopping prowess. This season, the "Greek Freak" is averaging 23.8 ppg, 8.9 reb, and 5.9 apg. Further, Antetokounmpo's two blocks and steals per contest headline the association’s #9 rated defense.
Blessed with an encompassing 7’3 wingspan and immense hands, Milwaukee’s 22-year-old burgeoning superstar has improved markedly with each passing season. By virtue of this, when combined with #35’s departure, Milwaukee’s 0-2 record vs. OKC in 15-16’ can be largely ignored.
However, what cannot be ignored is Giannis’ explosive 26 point, 12 reb, 10 ast, 4 blk, 3 stl revelation opposite Oklahoma City on March 6, 2016. Though the Bucks dropped that contest 104-96, come Monday the Thunder will no longer boast a player of similar proportions to combat the Antetokounmpo dilemma.
As a result, look for a bevvy of OKC defenders to blitz Antetokounmpo.
I'm not going to oversell Antetokounmpo's size and versatility. Needless to state, he will be a handful even for Andre Roberson tonight.— Joshua Broom (@BroomSports82) January 2, 2017
In light of these adjustments, Milwaukee’s other star forward, Jabari Parker, should gain ample opportunity to either reach or exceed his impressive regular line of 20.5 ppg and 50/38/74% shooting.
As an interesting aside, when factoring all elements, Oklahoma City’s encounter with Milwaukee could produce a rare triple-double performance from each team’s leading scorer.
Potential triple-doubles notwithstanding, the Thunder will require a strong team effort, and sustained defensive output to overcome a capable home-standing Bucks unit.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
The Thunder has won five of its last six contests. Following an ugly 114-80 road loss to Memphis, OKC rebounded with a 26-point drubbing of the injury-riddled Los Angeles Clippers.
During Oklahoma City’s New Year’s Eve triumph, Russell Westbrook garnered a spectacular first-half triple double. The 6’3 spitfire concluded 2016 with 17 pts, 14 ast, and 12 rebs in just 29 minutes of action.
Though perhaps even more assuring to Thunder Nation was the successful anticipated return of Victor Oladipo. Re-emerging from a ten-game absence, Oladipo coolly netted 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting against LAC.
To mitigate the Bucks’ all-world frontcourt duo, OKC will need an explosive performance from its lauded backcourt.
True to the team’s 16-16 record, Milwaukee has compiled as many wins as losses amid its last six outings. In the Bucks’ previous competitive foray, Antetokounmpo (35 points, 7 blocks) and Parker (27) led Milwaukee’s charge over a Chicago iteration that held a then creditable 10-6 home record.
Opposite the Bulls, Rookie Malcom Brogdon’s unexpected triple-double (15 pts, 12 ast, 11 rebs) offset the absences of starting PG Matthew Dellavedova, and fringe bench players Miles Plumlee and Rashad Vaughn.
This season, Milwaukee sports a top-ten OFFRTG (107.2) and DEFRTG (103.9). Although, as is the case with most statistically competent .500 collectives, the Bucks posses a glaring flaw. For Milwaukee, this fundamental defect is found in a precipitous -13.4 ppg dropoff in 16 losses.
Jason Kidd’s young Bucks have been offensively stonewalled during the majority of their competitive setbacks.
It behooves OKC to seize upon this advantage and make full use of the league’s #8-ranked defense opposite their Jekyll-and-Hyde foe.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Body-up Antetokounmpo
- Limit Milwaukee’s second-chance opportunities
- Exploit the Bucks’ limited knowledge of “winning”
- Kanter continues to facilitate
- Focus defensively
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS/INJURY REPORT
For Milwaukee starting PG Matthew Dellavedova (hamstring) and Miles Plumlee (finger sprain) are considered day-to-day. Rashad Vaughn (ankle) will miss tonight’s contest. For the Oklahoma City Thunder Alex Abrines (concussion) and Cameron Payne (foot, assigned to D-League) are listed as day-to-day.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: Malcom Brogdon/Dellavedova
- Shooting Guard: Tony Snell
- Small Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Power Forward: Jabari Parker
- Center: John Henson
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: +2
Due to home-court advantage, and Antetokounmpo’s strong play, the Vegas oddsmakers favor Milwaukee by +2 in this intra-conference showdown. However, our partners at numberFire grant OKC a slight percentage edge when factoring the final outcome.
Tonight’s key matchup will be Andre Roberson vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Roberson must utilize every tool in his considerable defensive arsenal to prevent Giannis from completely taking over.
Additionally, the Thunder should remain cognizant of Milwaukee’s wave of secondary performers such as Greg Monroe, Mizra Teletovic, and Tony Snell. If Teletovic, and Snell connect from the outside, Oklahoma City’s desired road to victory may take a sudden detour.