With just two losses in their last 14 games, the Milwaukee Bucks have moved up to second in the Eastern Conference standings. The first month of the 2021-22 campaign has been a shaky one for the Bucks, but now that several injury issues have been resolved for Milwaukee, the team looks like the powerhouse they appear to be on paper. Keep in mind that Milwaukee is still without the services of Donte DiVincenzo, who is temporarily scheduled to play his first game of the season on Wednesday night, and Brook Lopez, who will be out for the foreseeable future after undergoing back surgery.
That being said, the Bucks always find ways to win games, many in a comfortable way. Milwaukee enters the week with the eighth-best score in the NBA and the fourth-highest point differential in the league. The presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis in the paint is certainly also recognized, as the Bucks lead the league when it comes to rebounding. All of these factors, coupled with the full power play of Mliwaukee’s big three to Giannis, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, should allow for an exciting streak into the new year. Let’s see what awaits us this week.
Monday, December 13 in Boston (6:30 p.m., Bally Sports Wisconsin)
The Bucks start their week by returning to Boston, looking to avenge a 122-113 overtime loss just over a month ago. In that game, Giannis Antetokounmpo was knocked out of the squad just 90 minutes before kick-off, starting a string of injury issues for the Greek Freak. In a hotly contested game, Dennis Schroeder of Boston got hot late, scoring 38 points, a season-high. That included eight points in overtime to pull the Celtics past Milwaukee for the win. We’ll see how a Bucks team with the MVP fares against Boston, which comes into the week losing four of its last five games on a recent trip to the West Coast.
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Wednesday, Dec. 15 vs. Indiana (7 p.m., Bally Sports Wisconsin)
Milwaukee then returns to the Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night, facing the Indiana Pacers, who enter the week on a three-game winning streak. The Pacers, however, are still in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings, ahead of only the Orlando Magic and the Detroit Pistons. Indiana enters the game without forward Justin Holiday, who is currently in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. It won’t be a reunion with his brother for Jrue Holiday, but it will be a chance for Milwaukee to take a 3-0 lead against the Pacers, who they won’t see again until February.
Friday December 17 in New Orleans (7 p.m., Bally Sports Wisconsin)
Milwaukee is then back on the road on Friday, heading to New Orleans for their first meeting with the Pelicans this season. Winning isn’t easy in the Big Easy right now, as the Pelicans are currently sitting down in the Western Conference. Former draft top pick Zion Williamson will be sidelined for the Pelicans as he took time off from his rehab off the field following a foot injury that did not heal properly. There is currently no timeline for his return. That leaves forward Brandon Ingram and center Jonas Valanciunas leading the New Orleans offense, both of whom are expected to have issues with the Bucks’ depth at those respective positions. Wednesday also marks Donte DiVincenzo’s return to the Milwaukee lineup, and he should likely be able to shake off the rust with a few late-game minutes after the Bucks establish a comfortable league. Nothing is certain, however.
Saturday, Dec. 18 vs. Cleveland (8 p.m., Bally Sports Wisconsin)
Bucks week ends at home, when the Cleveland Cavaliers return to the Fiserv Forum for their second meeting in Milwaukee in two weeks. On December 6, the Bucks beat Cleveland 112-104, with a tie game from Giannis, Bobby Portis and Khris Middleton, who led the Bucks in points, rebounds and assists, respectively. Antetokounmpo was coming back from a few games with an ankle injury to score 27 points on his 27th birthday, and he is expected to overtake that performance, looking strong in games between clashes with the Cavaliers. We’ll see if a busy travel week and back-to-back games play a role in this game.