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What to watch for in Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks

Will the Cavs continue their winning streak?

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers, currently on a four-game winning streak, head to to Wisconsin for a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Last time the Cavs played in Milwaukee, they lost 113-98. Will this be different?

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (12-6) at Milwaukee Bucks (12-5)

Where: Cleveland, Ohio - Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

When: 8:00 p.m. EST

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

Spread (via DraftKings): Bucks -3

Opposing blog: Brew Hoop

Cavs expected starting lineup: Darius Garland / Donovan Mitchell / Lamar Stevens / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen

Cavs’ injury report: Kevin Love (OUT - thumb), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL recovery), Caris LeVert (OUT - ankle), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League Assignment), Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle)

Bucks expected starting lineup: Jrue Holiday/Jevon Carter/Grayson Allen/Giannis Antetokounmpo/Brook Lopez

Bucks injury report: Jrue Holiday (PROBABLE - non-COVID illness), Khris Middleton (OUT - left wrist), Joe Ingles (OUT - ACL recovery)

What to watch for

Notes from last time. Here’s a few things to know from the last time/to watch for round two:

  • There was no Jarrett Allen last time, as he was dealing with an ankle injury at the time. Allen being back almost assuredly will change how Cleveland defends Giannis. Expect Allen to draw that main assignment and for Mobley to shift into his more usual off-ball roamer roll.
  • Cleveland’s defense was well below its normal standard. The Cavs had a defensive rating of 126.7, per Cleaning The Glass. For the year, Cleveland has the league’s fourth-best defensive rating of 109.5. Their performance against the Bucks would be the league’s worst defense by nearly seven points if it were a real team. Maybe Jarrett Allen matters?
  • Only 20% of the Cavs’ shots were at the rim, per Cleaning The Glass. Cleveland’s average on the year is 32.7%, just below league average. A ton of the Cavs’ shots were in the short mid-range (4-14 feet) and the long mid-range (14 feet to the three-point line), which is where the Bucks are trying to funnel shots this year. An adjustment here is needed.
  • Giannis was 6-18 from the floor and 4-11 from the free throw line on Nov. 16 and the Cavs lost by double digits. If he’s not playing at his best again, Cleveland has to take better advantage.

Standings watch. Friday marks the Cavs’ 19th game on the season, putting them near the quarter mark of the season. With a win, will jump above the Bucks in the standings and be second in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Celtics — who they’ve beaten twice this year. (Even if they lose, the Cavs are in a good spot, but being second in the East is better than second.) Seems like the Donovan Mitchell trade has been worth it.

Eight-man rotation. With Kevin Love and Caris LeVert out (but Dean Wade back), J.B. Bickerstaff went with an eight-man rotation Wednesday night against the Trail Blazers. That meant the starters sans Lamar Stevens playing 30-plus. Stevens played 27 minutes while Cedi Osman played 27 off of the bench, Isaac Okoro played 20 minutes and Wade played 18. (There was a Robin Lopez cameo for five minutes too.)

Let’s see how this holds up against a different functioning opponent who presents very different challenges than the Blazers. This feels like a game that, if he’s ready for it in his second game back from injury, calls for more Wade minutes.

The Cavs will tip off against Bucks at 8 p.m. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on SlingTV.