Milwaukee made it four wins from their last five games when they beat Orlando 111-104 on Saturday. Giannis Antetokounmpo was typically dominant with 32 points and five assists, while Khris Middleton had a nice game, putting up 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. The win moved them to fifth spot in the east with a record of 31-24. They are squashed amongst a group of teams between fourth and eighth who are separated by just two games.
Atlanta had an impressive win at home in their last encounter, beating the Pistons 118-115. Dennis Schroder continued a good run of form with 23 points and seven assists, while Dewayne Dedmon had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Despite the win, they remained at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with a 18-39 record. They are just 2.5 games behind Chicago in 12th, but with draft riches on the horizon are probably content to stay there.
Three keys to the game
Stopping Antetokounmpo - Like most teams, Atlanta don’t have a logical matchup for the Greek Freak. They will need to find some way to limit his influence though, as if he puts up anything like his season averages - 27.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks - the Bucks will win this game with ease.
Bucks in Milwaukee and Hawks on the road - Neither Milwaukee’s home record nor the Hawks' road record bodes well for Atlanta. Milwaukee have been very impressive at home this season, going 18-9 in their 27 games. The Hawks have been woeful on the road, winning just five of 27 games outside of Atlanta.
Atlanta’s improved form - The Hawks have managed to be competitive for the past couple of weeks and have split their last eight games 4-4. Their offense has been the catalyst for this, with their offence improving over three points to 107.6, in the top half of the NBA during this time.
Matchup to watch
Dennis Schroder vs Eric Bledsoe - Few would argue that Schroder is the solution to Atlanta’s problems, but he has been playing some solid ball of late. In his past four games he is averaging 22.3 points, but importantly he is doing it on over 50% from the field. Bledsoe is another point guard who is solid without being near the best in the league, though he is a better player than Schroder. Since joining the Bucks earlier this season he has been useful, averaging 17.1 points on 45.4% shooting from the field, 3.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and a huge 2.1 steals.
Milwaukee Bucks predicted starting lineup
PG - Eric Bledsoe | SG - Tony Snell | SF - Khris Middleton | PF - Giannis Antetokounmpo | C - Thon Maker
Atlanta Hawks predicted starting lineup
PG - Dennis Schroder | SG - Kent Bazemore | SF - Taurean Prince | PF - Ersan Ilyasova | C - Dewayne Dedmon
These sides have met once this season, and Antetokounmpo was a major reason for the Bucks’ 117-106 victory. He shot 14-21 from the field on the way to 33 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out 16 dimes.
Middleton has struggled in his 13 career games against Atlanta. In these matchups, he has scored 13.4 points a game, only slightly below his career average, but his efficiency has been well below par. He has shot at just 37.2% from the field, and connected on only 21.8% of 3-point attempts.
Atlanta have been given a 7.5-point head start by oddsmakers, and Milwaukee should be able to cover this. They are playing very good basketball and have the talent on the floor to dispose relatively comfortably of an Atlanta team void of it.
Milwaukee shouldn’t have any problem winning this one. Antetokounmpo will capitalize on the Hawks' shaky defense, while Middleton and Bledsoe will also be looking for big games as the second and third best players on the floor. Atlanta will put up some resistance for the first half or so, but the Bucks will run away with it in the fourth. The home team will win this one 110-100.
The game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports Wisconsin and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.