The Milwaukee Bucks try to move up in the Central Division standings when they take on the LA Clippers in a Sunday night matchup. The opening tip for this contest is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Milwaukee is coming off a 29-point win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, its second straight victory. The Bucks are 33-21 and in second place in the Central Division, trailing the Chicago Bulls by a game and leading the Cleveland Cavaliers by a half-game.
The Clippers topped the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, their fifth straight game of alternating between wins and losses. Los Angeles is 27-27 and in third place in the Pacific Division, 13½ games behind the second-place Golden State Warriors and a game ahead of the fourth-place Lakers.
The Bucks are in for a challenge in the Central Division, with Chicago and Cleveland both much improved over last year’s non-playoff teams. Milwaukee knows it will be in a dogfight, so every win is going to be important in the race for the division crown and playoff seeding.
Having Giannis Antetokounmpo is certainly an advantage for the Bucks, as he’s playing at an MVP level yet again in pursuit of a second straight NBA title. Antetokounmpo is second in the NBA in scoring at 28.9 points per game while also ranking seventh in rebounds per contest with 11.3. He’s also 20th in the league with 6.0 assists per contest and is averaging 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals as well.
Forward Khris Middleton earned an All-Star berth again, the third such honor of his career. Middleton is averaging 19.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game while shooting 37.9% from 3-point range. He’s proven to be the perfect No. 2 man to Antetokounmpo.
Guard Jrue Holiday continues to be a solid third piece of the Bucks’ Big Three, averaging 18.0 points and a team-best 6.5 assists per game. Holiday has been a little inconsistent with his scoring — he’s coming off a nine-point performance against Portland — but he always brings solid on-the-ball defense and playmaking.
There was a thought among the Clippers that both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would be returning to the lineup at some point soon to help the team make its playoff push. Unfortunately, Leonard (out since last season with knee troubles) and George (out the last 22 games with an elbow injury) may not see the court until the 2022-23 campaign.
George is due to have an MRI on Feb. 24 to see how the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow has responded to rest, but even a solid report may not mean he’ll be playing again. Leonard continues to rehab his torn right ACL suffered in last year’s playoffs, but there’s no sign of him being ready to go soon either.
“Hope is stronger than fear,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of the two superstars’ status. “So I’m hoping that these two guys can come back. But you never know.”
Until then, the Clippers forge on with those that can play, as well as possibly a couple of new faces to the lineup. Los Angeles traded for forwards Norman Powell and Robert Covington from Portland on Friday. The duo should bring more firepower to the team’s lineup, with Powell averaging 18.7 points and Covington 7.6 points and 5.7 rebounds, and both could make their debut in this one.
Guard Reggie Jackson is the most consistent offensive threat that Lue has had over the last few weeks, though he’s averaging 16.7 points on the season. Jackson has turned up his production over the last 10 games, averaging 19.0 points and 4.9 assists.
Bucks Get Road Win
Milwaukee is a much more cohesive unit than the Clippers at this point, with Los Angeles bound to take some time to adjust to the lineup changes the trade brings. Having Antetokounmpo doesn’t hurt either, as the Bucks should roll to the win in this one.
When doing your NBA betting, take Milwaukee to win and cover on the road.