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Before embarking on a five-game West Coast road trip, the Wine & Gold wrap up their four-game homestand this weekend – welcoming Giannis and the Bucks to town for a pair on Friday and Saturday nights.
On Wednesday night, the Cavaliers simply couldn’t keep up with the hot-shooting Clippers – who drilled 20 three-pointers on the night. Paul George drilled twice as many triples individually as Cleveland did as a team, going 8-of-9 from beyond the arc as L.A. won its sixth straight against the Cavaliers, who dropped just their second home contest in the last seven outings.
The Bucks, winners of two straight, begin a six-game roadie as well on Friday night – tipping off with two straight in Cleveland before embarking on a West Coast junket of their own. In those two victories, Milwaukee beat Portland and Indy by an average of 24.0 points per – drilling 21 three-pointers in each contest.
Cleveland and Milwaukee have squared off once this year – with a Greek Freak-less Bucks squad with Khris Middleton leading the way with 27 points in the January 9 meeting. The Bucks have won five straight over the Wine & Gold, including seven of the past eight.
The Cavaliers had a tough time with the Bucks in last month’s loss, and things get even more difficult as the Bucks roll into town for a two-fer – with the reigning two-time MVP ready to rumble this weekend.
The Greek Freak’s numbers are slightly down from the past two seasons, but he’s still one of the league’s top two-way talents and comes in averaging 27.0 points, 11.2 boards and 6.0 assists, having played in every game this season except for the early-January matchup against Cleveland.
Giannis, fresh off a 21-point, 14-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in the Bucks’ recent win over the Pacers, his third of the season, the now-8th-year man has had some monster nights against the Cavs – with seven 20-point games, five 30-point games and a pair of 40-point outbursts right here in Cleveland.
Like most teams, the Cavaliers will throw every look they have at the Greek Freak, and that’ll include rookie Isaac Okoro – as the baptism-by-fire season continues for the 20-year-old, who leads his freshman class in minutes-played by a wide margin.
Okoro has been rock-solid defensively so far this year, but he’s struggled offensively over the past couple weeks – tallying double-figure scoring just twice in the last nine games, including a two-point effort against the Clippers on 1-for-5 shooting.
More and more it’s beginning to look like the NBA will try to play an All-Star Game this season, hoping for a one-night event in Atlanta.
Atlanta just happens to be the hometown of young Collin Sexton, who’d love nothing more than to punch his ticket to the midseason classic in just his third season as a pro.
The Young Bull has been outstanding all year, and after a pair of so-so showings in two road contests last weekend, the 22-year-old has rediscovered his mojo – averaging 26.5ppg over his last two, shooting 47 percent from the floor and 60 percent from long-distance.
Sexton – who leads Cleveland once again in scoring at a 24.3ppg clip – missed the January 9 meeting in Milwaukee with an ankle injury, but he’ll be ready to go this weekend. Through his first seven career meetings, the Bucks have kept the Mableton, GA native relatively in check; he’s topped the 20-point plateau just once over that stretch.
The former Alabama standout will have his hands full on both ends against one of the toughest and most underrated players in the game – Jrue Holiday.
Now in his 12th season out of UCLA, the do-it-all Holiday was just what the Bucks needed to take the next step. Holiday has netted double-figure scoring in every game but two this season – with his run of 20-point outings snapped at three in Milwaukee’s recent win over the Pacers.
Holiday’s also been outstanding against the Wine & Gold – averaging an even 24.0ppg over the last eight meetings.