3 things to watch as Milwaukee Bucks begin trip vs Portland Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, OREGON - APRIL 02 (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OREGON - APRIL 02 (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez. Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum
PORTLAND, OREGON – APRIL 02: (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

After starting February with a much-needed win, the Milwaukee Bucks are headed to the west coast for a four-game road trip that starts tonight against the struggling Portland Trail Blazers.

It will be the first of two games against the Blazers and two Western Conference road trips. They’re 5-1 against Portland in the last three seasons, including five straight wins having not lost since early November 2018.

The Blazers are 10 games under 0.500 and have lost five of their last six games. Although that hasn’t mattered much for Bucks opponents recently, it’s notable that their one win was against the even more hapless Houston Rockets.

Things may be inconsistent for the Bucks, but at least they aren’t the Blazers! They’ll be without superstar Damian Lillard as well as Robert Covington and Norm Powell after their fascinating trade with the Los Angeles Clippers yesterday, so this game becomes even more lopsided.

How will the Milwaukee Bucks look to defend Anfernee Simons and C.J. McCollum?

If we’re being honest, there’s not much reason to worry about this game if you’re the Bucks. The Blazers’ season is very much in the toilet and they signaled as much with their trade as well as letting Lillard get surgery to focus on next season.

Now that notorious “Bucks killer” Powell is off the team (though they’ll see him when they play the Clippers tomorrow), this becomes about focusing solely on C.J. McCollum and breakout guard Anferenee Simons. Both are shooting around 40 percent from 3 this season on very high volume and can get hot, which Bucks fans just endured with the Denver Nuggets.

McCollum has been very productive since returning from a very serious condition earlier this season, averaging 20.9 points on 58.4 percent true shooting, 4.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 0.9 steals across 10 games. That’s right in line with what he’s done against the Bucks in his career, but without Lillard, it won’t be easy for him to lead the Blazers to a win.

Simons is easily one of the candidates for the Most Improved Player award this season, scoring a career-best 15.7 points per game on 57.4 percent true shooting. He’s been getting more opportunities with Lillard out and his emergence allowed them to move Powell’s contract.

Jrue Holiday will likely take turns on the two guards with Khris Middleton, Donte DiVincenzo, Grayson Allen, and Wesley Matthews getting turns on them as well in spurts. There aren’t many offensive creators without Lillard and Powell, so tonight should be an easy one for the Bucks.