Finally, we’ve reached the end of what will easily be Houston’s roughest stretch of schedule for the entire year.
So far, Houston is 7-1 on this brutal stretch and have done all of it without the services of Chris Paul and have played their last four without Eric Gordon. Houston finished 4-1 against West teams likely to make the playoffs, 2-0 against the “worst” two teams in the group (Memphis and New Orleans-both on the road), and won their game against the East’s fifth-best team, Boston.
The Milwaukee Bucks come into town tonight, the cherry on top of this turd sandwich of a stretch. After facing the best team in the West, the Rockets get the second-best team in the East (a win over Houston would once again give the Bucks the top win percentage in the league).
Obviously, the Bucks are led by their impossibly long superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The aptly nicknamed “Greek Freak” is getting most of the pub for this game after being the MVP favorite until James Harden ended the Warriors game with his iconic shot.
“Oh, typical AK,” you’re saying. “Stop lying about Giannis getting the publicity. Everyone is featuring both of these guys equally!”
Oh really? Then tell me, where’s Harden in this ESPN commercial?
Back to the game itself. Milwaukee is tied with Houston for third-best offensive efficiency. What makes the Bucks scary is that they are fourth on the defensive side. They boast the league’s best eFG percentage, the best rebounding rate, and the second-best true shooting percentage. While Giannis himself can barely shoot (17% from deep), it hardly matters since he can get to the rim in half a step. The Bucks have wisely surrounded him with deep shooters and slashers. If you pack the paint, get ready for Khris Middleton (38% from deep), Brook Lopez (38%), and Malcolm Brogdon (43%) to cook you from deep. And if they don’t get you, Eric Bledsoe can carve you up too.
It would be really cool to get this win, especially with the rest of the top West teams starting to find their groove. However, I think the Bucks just have too much for Houston and are a matchup nightmare for the Rockets.
I think Harden will give everything as usual, but this Bucks team has the length to slow him down and make other players make plays. They did against Denver, and they will need to repeat that tonight for Houston to have a shot.
Prediction: Bucks win 118-107
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on ESPN