Viewers' Guide: Star-studded doubleheader on NBA TV

Lang Whitaker

Bucks vs Pistons (7:30 ET, NBA TV)

The Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons both entered this season expecting to make a leap into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. As both teams have found out thus far this season, great expectations aren’t always the easiest thing to capitalize upon.

Pistons getting on track

The Pistons enter having lost four of their last five, although that one win was a big one: A 106-90 victory over a LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers team. And while there are no moral victories in the NBA, the Pistons held their own against the Warriors one game prior in a 119-113 loss. The Pistons need to sustain that type of effort against Milwaukee if they want to improve upon their 15-18 record.

Bucks trying to find footing

The young Bucks have lost three of their previous four games, although it should be noted that two of those losses were against the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers. Still, the Bucks are 3-6 in their last 9 games. While they’re currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 14-15 record, they still have plenty of room to improve.

All-Star Giannis?

The Bucks have mounted a vociferous online campaign to get out the All-Star vote for forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who at 22 years old is averaging 23.4 points per game, along with 5.8 assists and 9.1 rebounds, leading Milwaukee in every category. The Pistons will have their hands full trying to stop the player known as the Greek Freak.

Tobias off the bench

The Detroit Pistons’ leading scorer so far this season is forward Tobias Harris, who is averaging 16.1 points per game in Detroit’s first 33 games. But two games ago, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy made a significant lineup change and shifted Harris from the starting lineup to the bench. While his numbers and minutes haven’t really changed, Van Gundy says it’s easier to get guys like Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond going early, and then letting Harris come off the bench and being the focal point of the second team’s offense.

Ten Wins

Many NBA teams sell 10 game season-ticket packages for fans who don’t want to commit for all 41 regular season home games, but the Bucks may have changed the game yesterday with the announcement of a “10 Win Superpass”package. Starting in January, Bucks fans who buy the package will get tickets for the next ten home wins, however many games it takes. If the Bucks win 5 or 10 in a row, fans can get ticket bonuses.

Raptors vs. Warriors (10:30 ET, NBA TV)

The Golden State Warriors just played the highest-profile game of the NBA regular season thus far, and came up just one point short, losing to the Cavs on Christmas Day, 109-108. But zoom out and the Warriors have been about as dominant as everyone expected, going 27-5 thus far and posting the best record in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Raptors are quietly rolling, going 14-2 in their last sixteen games, putting them just a game behind Cleveland in the Eastern Conference race.

Backcourt Battle

The balance of power in Toronto is clear: The Raptors are led by guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who average a combined 49.4 points and 11.3 assists. Of course, Golden State’s backcourt of Klay Thompson and reigning two-time MVP Stephen Curry are right there with them, averaging 45.4 points and 7.9 assists. As the NBA has increasingly become a perimeter-oriented game, these two teams stand as shining examples of teams playing from the outside-in thanks to their all-world backcourts.

Take Care

The Raptors are a veteran team and thus far rank as the NBA’s best at taking care of the ball, averaging just 11.8 turnovers. Golden State, meanwhile, is in the NBA’s bottom ten, at 15.1 turnovers per game. That’s partly a function of Golden State’s high-octane, high-wire offense, but it’s also something the Warriors have to take care of if they want to make a third consecutive trip to The Finals.

KD Is Not Nice

Of course, Golden State’s backcourt has been bolstered by the addition of Kevin Durant, who so far is Golden State’s leading scorer at 26.2 points per game. In his tenth NBA season, the former MVP is playing as well as he’s ever played, particularly of late, as he’s averaged 30 points in his last five games. Durant’s presence not only frees up Curry and Thompson, but he also gives them a lethal weapon when they’re covered.

Late Night Highlights

The Warriors may be the greatest show on earth, but Toronto can put together some highlight-worthy plays as well. Swingman Terrence Ross may be dealing with a sore wrist, but as he showed in traffic during Toronto’s previous game against the Portland Trail Blazers, turn your back on him at your own risk.

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Coverage begins at 7 ET on NBA TV


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