The winning streak may be over, but the Cleveland Cavaliers (26-16) have an opportunity to exact some revenge on the Milwaukee Bucks (31-13) in the final regular season matchup between the two teams. The Bucks lead the season series 2-1.
Where: Fiserv Forum - Milwaukee, WI
When: 8:00 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports Wisconsin
Spread: MIL -6
Expected Cavs Starting Lineup: Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Max Strus, Dean Wade, Jarrett Allen
Cavs Injury Report: Darius Garland (jaw, OUT), Evan Mobley (knee, OUT), Tristan Thompson (suspension, OUT), Ty Jerome (OUT, ankle), Isaiah Mobley (G League, OUT), Emoni Bates (G League, OUT)
Expected Bucks Starting Lineup: Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
Bucks Injury Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Shoulder, PROBABLE), TyTy Washington Jr. (G League, OUT)
What to watch for: Battling in the paint
The Bucks got some revenge on the Cavs from their 40-point defeat in Cleveland, and that was made a lot easier by having a healthy Giannis Antetokounmpo. Jarrett Allen was less effective last game than in the previous matchup, and that was in no small part due to Antatokounmpo banging around in the paint. “The Greek Freak” had a 35-point triple-double and snatched 18 rebounds en route to a 10-point win over the Cavs. Milwaukee won the rebounding battle last game by seven, including four on the offensive glass. The battle down low will likely dictate the outcome of this one.
That is not to say that Allen played poorly. He still finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists. His presence was still felt on both sides of the ball, but it was undoubtedly more difficult with the Bucks bigs healthy.
As an aside, the Cavs played a fine game last time out. Milwaukee was seemingly energized after the firing of head coach Adrian Griffin and played with a...pep in their step.
The Cavs only had 12 turnovers to the Bucks’ 11 and shot the same 50% from the floor as well. Considering Cleveland was without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, the loss could have been quite a bit worse against a healthy Milwaukee team.
One stat to watch for: (Sigh) Free throws
Complaining about referees and free throws is not a fun thing to do, but the disparity in the Cavs’ streak-busting loss was critical. Milwaukee attempted 13 more free throws for a total of 28 versus the Cavs’ 15. Conversely, in the 40-point beatdown, the Bucks only attempted 10 free throws (the Cavs had 19 attempts at the charity stripe, indicating that was not the reason they won the game).
It wasn’t even Antetokounmpo getting fouled in the paint that led to the higher number of free-throw attempts for Milwaukee. Damian Lillard attempted 11 free throws, the highest on the team, with some fouls called...less discernable than others.
Another (actual) stat to watch for: Shooting recovery
Free throw-watching is no fun unless you are a Philadelphia 76ers fan, so here is another stat to watch for. In Tuesday night’s game, the Cavs made two more three-pointers than the Bucks but needed nine more attempts to do it. Donovan Mitchell was 2-11 from deep, making his first one and not hitting another until the fourth quarter. Sam Merrill got hot in the first half but finished 4-9. Overall, the Cavs attempted 38 threes (tied for their fewest since January 5th against Washington). The Bucks don’t allow many three-point attempts (eighth-fewest per Cleaning the Glass), so the Cavs must make the ones they do manage to take.