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Clippers Vs. Bucks Game Preview: No Kawhi, But A Bunch of Giannis

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Kawhi will utilize his second “load management” game against Eastern Conference stalwart Milwaukee Bucks, the first game of a home back-to-back.

LA Clippers v Milwaukee Bucks

Game Information

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 10:00 PM Pacific Time

How to Watch: ESPN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Landry Shamet, Patrick Patterson, Ivica Zubac

Bucks: Eric Bledsoe, Wesley Matthews, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

Injuries

Clippers: Paul George Out (Shoulder), Kawhi Leonard Out (rest), Amir Coffey Out (Ankle)

Bucks: None

The Big Picture

Well, another game without the Clippers best player against another good team. At this point, are we sure the Clippers aren’t strategically doing this to “hide” how good they play with Kawhi in the lineup against teams they could see down the line? The Bucks will be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and could see themselves in the NBA finals. So, for a team with championship aspirations, maybe this is a longterm play? Frankly, I’m not too mad at Kawhi resting. Yes, selfishly, it would be nice to see a competitive game on national TV with two of the best players in the league going at it, but we saw what Kawhi did last year with a ton of regular season rest. Let’s not forget the long game here Clippers fans.

I know it’s tough to see the Lakers taking advantage of a *super* easy early schedule and see all of their fans crowing about LeBron and AD highlights on seemingly every Instagram sports accounts night-in, night-out. All of this won’t matter come late Spring when the Clips are fully healthy and rested for the long NBA playoffs and 35 year old LeBron has been playing 35 minutes a night since October. Let’s all take a deep breath.

Outside of this, the Clips are 5-2 and still aren’t anywhere close to being 100% themselves yet. Their last three wins weren’t pretty but they are adjusting to new players, new schemes and knowing new roles. Kawhi is still doing Kawhi things, Zubac is killing it defensively and showing improvement offensively, and JaMychal Green is a sniper a la Barry Pepper in Saving Private Ryan. While Shamet and Beverley have been inconsistent from the outside, we all know they’ll start connecting eventually. Harkless is a beast defensively and is hitting the shots he needs to. Yes, LA will more than likely lose tonight’s contest, but it’ll be fun to see if they can keep it close for awhile and score without Kawhi.

The Antagonist

The Bucks are on a three game win streak right now, because of course they are. After starting 2-2, with an embarrassing loss to the Celtics where they gave up a 16 point halftime lead, Milwaukee has smoked the Magic, Raptors, and Timberwolves in consecutive games, wwo of which were on the road. They look legit, because we all know they are legit. Giannis is already putting up better numbers than he did in his MVP season last year, Middleton is shooting above 40% from three and scoring nearly 20 a game, and Bledsoe is healthy and running the humming offense. Did I mention that this team is DEEP? Five non-starters are averaging 6-9 points per game, four of whom (Donte DiVincenzo, Sterling Brown, George Hill and Kyle Korver) are shooting above 46% from three. This team is talented up and down the lineup and are very well coached under Mike Budenholzer. Again, this is a team with championship aspirations. Buckle up, this one could get bumpy.

Notes

Brook Lopez drought?: So far this season, Brook Lopez is shooting 30.8 percent from three on 5.6 attempts. That is down from the 35.2% he shot last year. Is this a sign that defenses have figured out that he roams the perimeter and are closing out to him quicker? Or just some good ole’ #smallsamplesizetheatre? Either way, since I’m writing about it now, he’ll probably go 5-for-5 tonight against LA.

Have to get Pat and Sham going early: Without Kawhi in the lineup tonight, the starting lineup is depleted as far as players that can create their own shot and go get a bucket. The addition of Lou starting helps this, but it’s imperative that guys like Bev and Sham get going early. Sham is only shooting 31.7% from three and Bev is putting up a dismal 12.9%. If these guys can get open ones to drop early, it will help all involved. Plus, if Bev can get a few assists in the PnR/PnP with Zu or Patterson it will open the offense up and allow for more shots for everyone. We can only hope right?

Who is going to guard Giannis?: I think you almost have to start Mo Harkless this game right? Don’t think Patterson can really stick with Freak at all. Bev is too short but could work in spot treatment. Giannis might have himself a night.

Come back for the game thread later tonight, and keep those seat belts fastened!