3 keys as the Milwaukee Bucks return home against Portland Trail Blazers

Feb 5, 2022; Portland, Oregon, USA; Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 5, 2022; Portland, Oregon, USA; Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /
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Los Angeles Clipper: Serge Ibaka. Portland Trail Blazers: Anfernee Simons, Enes Kanter
Dec 30, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s fair to assume that most would consider a 3-1 west coast road trip to be successful, but it always stings a little bit when that one loss comes on the final game. It stings a bit more for the Milwaukee Bucks because they got blown out in their Finals rematch.

Nevertheless, they’re back home now and begin a six-game homestand tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers, who look different from the last time we saw them — which was less than 10 days ago!

The Blazers have committed to their tear down, but have won their last two games and have proven to be a competitive group despite their talent deficit. Still, they haven’t played a team at the level of the Bucks yet and things did not go very well for the Blazers in their previous meeting (a 29-point loss).

How much will Serge Ibaka play in his Milwaukee Bucks debut?

Bucks fans had to wait a little longer than expected for the debut of deadline addition Serge Ibaka, but he’ll be making his debut in front of the Fiserv Forum crowd tonight.

Ibaka spoke with reporters for the first time since the trade yesterday and he believes he’ll be a great fit both offensively and defensively.

Assuming he’ll play in a similar role to Brook Lopez, we’ll see a lot of Ibaka in a drop pick and roll coverage scheme that will allow Ibaka to focus on taking shots away at the rim. The nice thing about Ibaka is that he’s more athletic and mobile, even as he’s recovering from back surgery, so it will be interesting to see if head coach Mike Budenholzer has him play a little higher in the drop at times.

On offense, Ibaka mentioned that he believes he’ll be a great fit alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ibaka has been able to shoot from 3 relatively well, 35 percent on three attempts in his last five seasons. For reference, Lopez has shot 34.4 percent on five attempts in his Bucks career.

He is also an effective finisher at the rim for his entire career, so when he’s on the floor alongside Bobby Portis, they’ll both be able to space the floor and finish closer to the rim. I’m interested to see what kind of pick-and-roll actions they run for Ibaka.

I’d be surprised if we saw a ton of Ibaka, but he’ll be nice to have as an extra body against Jusuf Nurkic. He should see between 18 to 20 minutes in this one and that’s likely what we should expect going forward as the third big man in the rotation.