3 things to watch in Milwaukee Bucks MVP showdown vs Denver Nuggets

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 31: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 31: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Pat Connaughton., Brook Lopez Milwaukee Bucks: Nikola Jokic
Feb 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) /

How will the Milwaukee Bucks try to contain the Denver Nuggets offense?

One of the benefits to having possibly the best offensive player in the NBA is that your offense can only be so bad, no matter who else is missing.

If Jokic is in the lineup for the Nuggets, they’ll have a chance to win most nights because of how much he does offensively for them. For the season, the Nuggets are 13th in offensive rating at 110.7 but over their last 12 games where they’ve gone 9-3, they’re second at 117.3 to help them earn the fifth-highest net rating in that time at plus-7.1.

Jokic has been incredible in that stretch, as you’d expect, averaging 27.5 points (shooting over 44 percent from 3 on over four attempts per game), 12.8 rebounds, 9.3 assists, and 1.5 steals. But as a team, they’ve found a groove on offense (and have played some poor defenses), with an assist rate that is the highest in the league across each team’s last 12 games at 70.8 percent as well as the highest effective field goal rate at 56.2 percent.

This will, of course, be a challenge for the Bucks even if the Nuggets are without two of their three best players. In their last 12 contests, Denver has six players averaging double figures in scoring and three of them (including Jokic) averaging over 15 points per game.

Will Barton and Aaron Gordon, the two other players averaging over 15 points per game in their last 12, will present different problems for the Bucks. Barton is shooting 40 percent from 3 on over six attempts in his last 12 games and also averaging over four assists. Expect to see Jrue Holiday spending a lot of time on him (he went 2-of-6 against Holiday back in November, per NBA.com/stats).

Gordon is a big, athletic player than the Bucks don’t have an ideal player to put against him but we should expect to see multiple bodies thrown at him. In their first meeting, he scored 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and all five attempts came against either Antetokounmpo or Khris Middleton.

Jokic is the focus of the defensive game plan, but the Nuggets have been rolling on offense lately and still have players capable of popping off for big nights if they aren’t careful.