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Game Preview: Clippers Face Bucks Aiming for 7th Straight Win

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The LA Clippers look to cap a 4-game road trip on a high note against the Milwaukee Bucks, also hoping to keep their win streak alive.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information

Where: Fiserv Forum - Milwaukee, WI

When: 5:00 p.m. PST

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket

How to Listen: AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

LA Clippers: Landry Shamet, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Garrett Temple, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac

Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe, Sterling Brown, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

Injuries

Clippers: Patrick Beverley (Hip) - Out, Luc Mbah a Moute (Knee) - Out

Bucks: Pau Gasol (Ankle) - Out, Tony Snell (Ankle) - Out, Donte DiVincenzo (Heel) - Out, Malcolm Brogdon (Foot) - Out

The Big Picture

The LA Clippers, who are 11-1 in the month of March and currently riding a 6-game win streak, are playing their best basketball of the entire season. And it couldn’t come at a better time; the Western Conference standings continue to remain tight as the postseason looms on the horizon. The Clippers currently sit in 6th place, though they share the same win-loss record (45-30) as the 5th place Utah Jazz. And only 4.5 games separate 3rd and 8th place in the West. By the end of the night, the Clippers could see themselves in 5th place once again with a win, and possibly even 1 game away from home court advantage with a loss by the Houston Rockets.

Since inserting trade deadline acquisitions Landry Shamet, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Garrett Temple into their rotation on February 9th (and later on, Wilson Chandler), the Clippers have gone 15-4. During that span, that is the highest winning percentage in the entire NBA (.789%). They have also sported the league’s 4th-highest Offensive Rating and 6th-highest Net Rating during the same span. And the Clippers are doing it with a starting unit which (usually) features 3 players - Shamet, Zubac, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - who are 21 years-old or younger (with both Shamet and Gilgeous-Alexander in their rookie seasons).

The Clippers are about to wrap up a 4-game road trip, the first 3 games coming against lottery-bound teams. Tonight’s matchup, however, will feature one of the toughest opponents any team has faced all season. With the absence of Patrick Beverley, the Clippers will need Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Danilo Gallinari to be especially-productive offensively tonight.

The Antagonist

The Milwaukee Bucks are a league-leading 56-19 on the season and are likely to retain home court advantage through the entirety of the postseason. Led by potential-MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (averaging 27.3 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game), and featuring a supporting cast of All-Star Khris Middleton, resurgent guard Eric Bledsoe, and sharp-shooting center Brook Lopez, the Bucks are a dangerous team. At the helm is Coach of the Year candidate, Mike Budenholzer, who has turned a defensive-minded group into a two-way dynamo. The Bucks have had a unique combination of length and athleticism for some time, but they are now destroying teams from beyond the arc and playing with a high level of offensive freedom on a night-to-night basis.

For some added perspective on where this Bucks group stands, they lead the league in points per game (117.4), defensive rebounds per game (40.2), total rebounds per game (49.5), Defensive Rating (104.2), and Net Rating (9.2), all while holding opponents to the lowest effective field goal percentage (49.9%) of any team in the NBA. They also rank 2nd in the league in 3-point field goals attempted (38.0), 3-point field goals made (13.5), and blocks (6.0) per game.

While the injury of guard Malcolm Brogdon was certainly a major blow for the Bucks, they are still a very complete team with lots of depth. Veterans George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, and Pat Connaughton have also been crucial in making sure this team maintains momentum in their expanded roles. And the current injuries keeping Nikola Mirotic, Pau Gasol, and Tony Snell sidelined notwithstanding, the Bucks still have enough firepower and collective mental fortitude to advance as far as the NBA Finals — and even to make it pretty interesting.

Game Notes

  • In their prior matchup this season against the Bucks, the Clippers prevailed, 128-126, thanks to a driving layup by Lou Williams with less than a second remaining in overtime. Both teams made some significant roster changes since that mid-November matchup, both also battling injuries to key contributors, but expect the same sort of intensity and pace we witnessed earlier this season.
  • Expect free throw shooting to be a major factor in tonight’s matchup. The Clippers lead the league in both free throws attempted (28.6) and free throws made (22.7) per game. The Bucks are middle-of-the-pack in both categories, but hold opponents to the lowest attempted free throw rate of any team in the NBA. If the Clippers can play downhill and begin drawing fouls early on, they’ll give themselves a much greater advantage down the stretch.
  • Both the Clippers and the Bucks are top-10 in defensive rebounding and bottom-third of the league in offensive rebounding, so prepare for an uptempo game favoring transition offense.

Be sure to check out the Bucks perspective over at Brew Hoop.