After matching up with the Celtics four times before Christmas – and winning three of them (!) – the Bucks (14-11) will face the Cavaliers (5-23) for the third time this season. Following tonight, the Bucks will have played over a quarter of their games against those two foes.
Milwaukee is coming off an impressive road win in overtime against Boston. The 53-minute roller coaster did a fine job of encapsulating the Bucks’ season as a whole:
They got off to a sloppy and slow start (but not 17-0!). Then they chipped away at the end of the second quarter. Then they played terrible in the third quarter. Then they stormed back in the fourth quarter and led by seven with 33 seconds left. Then they missed free throws and turned the ball over. Then they let Paul Pierce hit a game-tying three with two seconds left. Then, with a chance to win the game, they ran a play that ended in missed 18-footer by Larry Sanders. Then, without any semblance of momentum, they somehow won in overtime.
If nothing else, this team is unpredictable.
#Bucks take 3 of 4 from the Celtics to win the season series for the first time since 2005-06. Also was last time Bucks won 2 in Boston
— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) December 22, 2012
Milwaukee leads the season series with Cleveland 2-0, though they’ve only won by a combined seven points. The first game between the division rivals featured a Brandon Jennings buzzer-beater to cap the Bucks’ home-opener. The second matchup, eight days ago, was a bit less exciting, but it did host Monta Ellis’ best performances of the season. He scored 33 points on 24 shots, while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out four assists.
One thing to keep an eye on (or ear out for) tonight is the starting frontcourt matchup. The Bucks’ duo of Larry Sanders and Luc Mbah a Moute combined for a 37-point, 26-rebound performance against Jason Colllins – who doesn’t appear to be Boston’s missing piece, after all – and Kevin Garnett. Meanwhile, it looks like the Cavaliers will be missing Anderson Varejao, who sat out for the second consecutive game Friday night with a bruised right knee.
That should say Varejao probably out tomorrow vs. Bucks. Definitely out tonight. #Cavs
— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) December 21, 2012
Varejao is having the most productive year of his career at age 30 – coming off last year’s season-ending broken wrist, no less. He’s averaging 14.1 points and a league-leading 14.4 rebounds per game. Rookie Tyler Zeller replaced him in the starting lineup in Cleveland’s 10-point loss to the Pacers. The Cavaliers also recalled Jon Leuer (!) from the Canton Charge of the D-League following Varejao’s injury. The former Badger and Buck averaged 20.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in six starts. His NBA numbers this season don’t look quite as promising.
If Varejao sits out, it’s a significant break for the equally injury-riddled Bucks. Beno Udrih (sprained ankle) and Tobias Harris (arm laceration) remain out, while Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are dealing with injuries of their own. Jennings rolled his ankle against the Grizzlies Wednesday, and Ellis was questionable for Friday night’s game with a sore back. However, they both managed to play 40-plus minutes against the Celtics.
Tonight’s game marks the fourth contest in five nights for the Bucks. Shockingly, this one won’t be locally televised.
Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Marquis Daniels, Luc Mbah a Moute, Larry Sanders
Essentially, the Bucks should beat Cleveland, mostly because the Cavaliers are an atrocity on defense. Whether or not the Bucks do it is another matter entirely.
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