3 things to watch in Milwaukee Bucks fascinating game vs Brooklyn Nets

Oct 19, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Wesley Matthews, Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 07 (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

This final road trip of the Milwaukee Bucks‘ has certainly not lacked excitement and intrigue, even if the first game was a 25-point loss. After grinding out a tough win over one of the East’s best teams, the Bucks face a team that should be one of the conference’s best but is now a potential first-round matchup in the Brooklyn Nets.

As things stand, the Bucks are still a game back of first place in the East but are also a game up on third and fourth. The Nets, meanwhile, are two games back of seventh and four games back of avoiding the play-in as the sixth seed (that’s not happening at this point). They are also only a half-game up on ninth and the Charlotte Hornets, so the Bucks could knock their conference rivals into an even worse play-in spot.

Tiebreakers don’t matter much when there’s such a gap between these two teams, but the Bucks can win the season series 3-1 with a win tonight but the Nets will likely be coming out desperate for a win to stay above ninth.

Will Wesley Matthews stick in the starting lineup for the Milwaukee Bucks?

After the surprise swap by head coach Mike Budenholzer in starting Wesley Matthews over Grayson Allen against the Philadelphia 76ers that worked relatively fine, it’s fair to wonder if Matthews will get another look for his defense against the potent Nets offense.

The rationale for starting Matthews over Allen was sound in that they wanted another reliable defender to deal with the Sixers’ dangerous backcourt and it could be a similar situation tonight against the Nets.

In the last game against the Nets right out of the All-Star break, Budenholzer opted to start the same five guys he had for the majority of the season, which meant Allen was out there. However, Matthews played nearly 28 minutes to Allen’s 22 and a half or so.

Matthews did start against the Nets and played close to 30 minutes back on January 7th, but Allen (among many others) wasn’t available for that game.

He’s checked both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and in two games, they’ve shot 7-of-14 against him with only one foul drawn. Sure, that’s not particularly elite from Matthews but it’s fine enough that it warrants consideration for tossing him in with the starters again.

In fairness to Allen, he held up well in his minutes against the Sixers and shouldn’t be characterized as a bad defender by any means. He’s solid, but Matthews allows the Bucks to be more versatile.

It remains to be seen if this is a permanent thing, but this would be another matchup where having Matthews out there for defensive purposes makes sense in theory.