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Short-handed Bucks Face Major Test Against Jazz

The Utah Jazz try to rebound from their first loss when they take on the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET opening tip at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

Utah lost on the road against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, 107-99, to fall to 4-1. The Jazz lead the Northwest Division, sitting a half-game ahead of the second-place Denver Nuggets.

Joe Ingles banter with Giannis Antetokounmpo Utah Jazz vs Milwaukee Bucks Picks
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images/AFP

The Bucks have dropped two in a row, both at home, to fall to 3-3. Milwaukee is second in the Central Division, two games behind the first-place Bulls.

If you’re betting online on this contest, the NBA lines have the Jazz listed as a one-point favorite, with the over/under set at 223.

Doing It With D

The Jazz have been shutting down opponents, allowing 99.0 points per game, the second-best mark in the Western Conference. It certainly helps to have the two-headed monster in the middle of Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside, who are averaging 1.2 and 1.4 blocks per game, respectively.

Gobert has also been the NBA’s best on the boards in 2021-22, averaging 18.0 per game to lead the next-highest average (Denver’s Nikola Jokic) by more than three per contest. Gobert is also scoring 17.8 points per game while shooting 72.5 percent from the field.

Guard Donovan Mitchell leads the balanced scoring attack for the Jazz with 22.0 points per game. Utah has six players averaging in double figures this season. Mitchell is also leading the team with 5.2 assists per game.

Guard Jordan Clarkson continues to be a spark off the bench for Utah. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is third on the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game despite coming off the bench in each game this season.

Injury Woes

The Bucks are dealing with multiple injuries as they begin defense of their title, the most notable of which is a left ankle sprain that has kept guard Jrue Holiday out for the last three games. Holiday has played in two games, leaving the season opener after 18 minutes of action and playing last weekend against San Antonio for just 25 minutes, and there is no timetable for his return to the court.

Also out of the lineup is center Brook Lopez, who hasn’t played since the season opener with back issues. Lopez isn’t expected to play against the Spurs, though Bobby Portis should be able to play after making his season debut on Wednesday night.

“We’ve just got to work our way through the weekend and keep them healthy and keep them progressing,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said of the team’s injuries after Saturday’s loss to San Antonio.

One player who is active for the Bucks is forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he’s been playing at his usual MVP level. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game.

Forward Khris Middleton has also gotten off to a solid start, scoring 20.0 points per game. Middleton hasn’t been very good from 3-point range, however, as he’s hitting just 25.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Jazz Get Road Win

At full strength, the Bucks would be a tough team for the Jazz to beat. But Milwaukee is down two starters and on the second end of a back-to-back. Meanwhile, Utah is playing well and has everyone available, making the Jazz the pick to come out on top in this one.

When making your NBA picks, take Utah to win on the road.

Pick: Utah Jazz -1

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