Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kamran Jebreili/AP/Shutterstock (13440375g) Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo practices during a training session ahead of the NBA pre-season basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Bucks Hawks Basketball, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – 05 Oct 2022
PREVIEW: Bucks at Rockets- Dec. 11
After Thursday’s disappointing loss in San Antonio, the Rockets open a seven-game homestand on Sunday night as the Milwaukee Bucks visit Toyota Center for the only time this season.
Eye on the Bucks
Record: 19-6 (Second in Eastern Conference)
Offensive rating (rank): 112.0 (16th)
Defensive rating (rank): 107.1 (2nd)
The Bucks have won four in a row and seven-of-eight after Friday’s win in Dallas. With Khris Middleton missing the first 20 games of the season rehabbing the left knee injury he suffered in last season’s playoffs, the Bucks have needed Giannis Antetokounmpo to step up, and he has done just that. The two-time MVP is averaging a career-high 31.9 points per game this season to go with 11 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He hasn’t been as efficient scoring the basketball, but that’s because he’s having to shoot a lot more with Middleton unavailable. Milwaukee’s middle-of-the-pack offense has a lot to do with Middleton’s absence, but the Bucks have been elite on the defensive end of the floor, most notably in the paint, where they allow just 46.5 points per game.
Matchup to watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Rockets front line
The Rockets have had no answer for Antetokounmpo the last two times they’ve played him. He scored 44 points on 17-of-21 shooting when he faced them in October, and he shot 15-of-20 for 41 points in his only game against the Rockets last season. Rockets head coach Stephen Silas likes to have his center defend Antetokounmpo, and he started Usman Garuba against him in the October matchup with Bruno Fernando out with a knee injury to try to keep Alperen Sengun out of early foul trouble. Who Silas starts at center on Sunday will be interesting. It’s been Sengun for every game, but one since the Rockets’ first game against the Bucks, but Antetokounmpo’s ability to draw fouls may force the Rockets’ coach to change up.
What I’m watching for
TyTy Washington has only played garbage time minutes since his promotion from the G League on Tuesday, but you have to wonder if this is the time Silas elects to give him rotation minutes; otherwise, what was the point?
“He’s gonna be available to play, if necessary,” Silas said Wednesday. “Then we’re gonna re-evaluate (after the Vipers back-to-back this weekend).”
That doesn’t sound encouraging for Washington to get a rotation spot, but it might be time to give the 29th overall pick from July’s draft a chance. Washington has taken part in two practices, a shoot around, and five garbage time minutes since his recall; plus, it’s not like Daishen Nix has done anything to show he deserves consistent minutes playing behind Kevin Porter Jr. If anything, giving Washington an opportunity in front of him for a game or two might give Nix a bit of a wake-up call that the minutes won’t just be handed to him.