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Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks

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Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks: game preview and how to watch

Darius Garland will look to back up his 51 point performance tonight.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will look to break their four-game losing streak as they hit the road to take on the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (8-5) at Milwaukee Bucks (10-2)

Where: Milwaukee, WI - Fiserv Forum

When: 8 p.m. EST

TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass

Opposing blog: Brew Hoop

Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Darius Garland / Donovan Mitchell / Caris LeVert / Lamar Stevens / Evan Mobley

Cavs’ injury report: Donovan Mitchell (QUESTIONABLE- right ankle), Jarrett Allen (OUT - left ankle), Dean Wade (DOUBTFUL- left knee), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL), Dylan Windler (OUT - right ankle)

Bucks’ expected starting lineup: Jrue Holiday / Jevon Carter / MarJon Beauchamp / Giannis Antetokounmpo / Brook Lopez

Bucks’ injury report: Jrue Holiday (QUESTIONABLE - ankle), Pat Connaughton (PROBABLE - calf), A.J. Green (QUESTIONABLE - nose), Grayson Allen (DOUBTFUL - calf), Joe Ingles (OUT - ACL), Khris Middleton (OUT - wrist), Wesley Matthews (OUT - hamstring)

What to watch for

Encore performance from Darius Garland. Garland broke out of his slump with a 51-point night which included 27 in the fourth quarter. It was easily the best scoring game of his career and one of the best shot-making exhibitions we’ve seen from anyone in a Cavalier uniform.

The scoring outburst came with Donovan Mitchell out of the lineup and against a team not known for its perimeter defense. Having Mitchell back against Milwaukee’s defense will provide a different test as they have the best defense in the league with a 105.9 defensive rating.

Coach Mike Budenholzer has finally decided to stop surrendering threes. This season opponents are shooting from the outside on only 32.1% of their attempts as opposed to the over 36% they’ve shot in Coach Bud’s previous four Bucks’ teams. They are surrendering the third-fewest threes per game which pay dividends when paired with elite rim protection as opponents are shooting only 62% within the restricted area.

Garland has struggled this season against teams who have this kind of length. It’ll be difficult to get off clean looks against Milwaukee. That said, there is no defense for the level of shot-making Garland displayed during the fourth quarter on Sunday.

Defending Giannis. The Cavs did a good job defending the two-time MVP in their last meeting. Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to just 26 points and 3 assists in the Cavs’ win.

Cleveland was able to do this by having Jarrett Allen as the primary defender with Evan Mobley guarding the center Bobby Portis. Having someone of Allen’s size guarding Giannis while still having a legit rim protector to provide help defense presented a unique challenge that most teams aren’t able to throw at him. The Cavs also varied up looks throughout the night going to zones with Allen and Mobley shading towards Antetokounmpo.

It’ll be difficult to replicate that performance with Brook Lopez back and Jarrett Allen out of the lineup. Mobley had a tough time staying in front of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert in Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This resulted in Robin Lopez playing crunch time minutes. Brook Lopez isn’t KAT or Gobert, but he’s certainly more of an inside presence than Portis. Mobley being able to physically stay with Lopez is necessary for their defense to work.

The Cavs don’t have a way of replacing what Allen was able to do with Giannis in their last meeting. The Cavs will probably start Lamar Stevens on Giannis in hopes that he can provide some level of resistance with Mobley being able to help protect the rim. It’s also likely that the Cavs’ will again vary their defensive looks by switching to a zone periodically with Antetokounmpo on the floor.

Giannis can’t be stopped. You just hope to be able to provide some level of resistance that makes him work for baskets.

Another measuring stick game. The Cavs have hit a rough patch as they’ve lost four straight close games. Cleveland is a good team as they have the second-best net rating with the fourth-best offense and third-best defense. Unfortunately for the Cavs, that hasn’t resulted in the record you would expect from a team with that profile.

Tonight is an opportunity to see if those metrics are indicative of their true skill. The Bucks are shorthanded without Jrue Holliday and Khris Middleton, but they are still a very good team who is 8-2 in games Antetokounmpo has played in. This game and the one next week should provide good progress reports for how the Cavs stack up against the upper echelon of the conference.

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Analysis

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