The Cleveland Cavaliers continue their homestand on Wednesday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse when they host the Milwaukee Bucks. The Cavs are 0-2 on the season against the Bucks — will the third time be the charm?
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (21-11) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (22-8)
Where: Cleveland, Ohio — Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
When: 7 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Spread (via DraftKings): Cavs -2
Opposing blog: Brew Hoop
Cavs expected starting lineup: Darius Garland / Donovan Mitchell / Isaac Okoro / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs’ injury report: Lamar Stevens (doubtful - knee sprain), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - two-way) , Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL recovery), Dean Wade (OUT - shoulder)
Bucks expected starting lineup: Jrue Holiday / Marjon Beauchamp / Grayson Allen / Giannis Antetokounmpo / Brook Lopez
Bucks injury report: AJ Green (OUT - two-way), Sandro Mamukelashvili (OUT - two-way), Khris Middleton (DOUBTFUL - knee soreness)
What to watch for
Standings and tiebreakers. The NBA season hasn’t hit Christmas yet, so it’s still a little bit early to really look into playoff seeding and tiebreakers for most games. Wednesday’s game, however, is an exception.
For one, this is the third Cavs-Bucks matchup of the season already. If the Cavs lose and go down 3-0 in the season series, they have no shot of having a tiebreaker over the Bucks for playoff seeding. There’s still a lot of basketball to go. Maybe it ultimately won’t matter in the final standings. But it gives the Cavs a little less flexibility in the standings.
As for the standings, the Cavs are currently two games behind the Bucks in the East. As it stands now, Cleveland is chasing both Milwaukee and Boston in the standings while holding off the likes of the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. Again: There’s a long way to go here. But if the standings remain tight, every little game is going to matter. Staying in the top-three while pushing up against the top-two — and maybe breaking in at some point — is better for the Cavs in terms of playoff matchups. There’s no way around arguing that getting a team like the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks or this version of the Miami Heat is a better option than drawing the Nets or 76ers in a four-five round one matchup.
Lessons from the previous two games. In Cleveland’s two losses to Milwaukee this year, Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell were a combined 33-81 (40.7%) from the field, including a 14-34 (41.2%) mark from three. That means, on two-point attempts, the Cavs’ guard two — their dual engines — 19-50 (38%) on two-point shots. They just have to be better on two-point looks if the Cavs have a shot at winning.
That, though, is much easier said than done against Milwaukee. They give up the fourth-lowest rate of shots at the rim, per Cleaning The Glass, and have built a defense scheme around funnelling teams into the mid-range. And if teams do get to the rim, the Bucks are fourth in defensive field goal percentage at the rim, per Cleaning The Glass. So, to win, the Cavs may need Garland and Mitchell to make simply shoot better in the mid-range than they did the last two times.
The Joe Ingles factor. Ingles made his Bucks and season debut on Monday, playing 15 minutes off of the bench. He didn’t score and was 0-4 from the field, but picked up two assists and a steal. He adds a pick-and-roll dimension that, with GIannis rolling, will be hard to defend.
Joe Ingles is back and throwing lobs to Giannis and I am intrigued. pic.twitter.com/AohjsrSIYB— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) December 20, 2022
No Khris Middleton (listed as doubtful) takes some off of the Cavs’ plate to worry about against the Bucks. But Ingles adds something else and Cleveland is the second team to get a look at Ingles in a Milwaukee uniform. Let’s see how Ingles looks, but also see how the Cavs approach defending him and what he provides.