The New Orleans Pelicans return home to the Smoothie King Center Wednesday night after having played a valiant game in Houston on Monday. The Pelicans, who only had eight healthy players available against the Rockets, gave James Harden and company all they could handle for three quarters, but coming off their second game in as many nights, New Orleans ultimately ran out of gas toward the end of the night.
The Pelicans had Tuesday night off so hopefully they took advantage of the rest because one of the rising teams in the NBA comes to town. The Milwaukee Bucks are winners of three straight and six of their last seven. At 15-10, they are your current four-seed in the Eastern Conference.
Any and all discussions surrounding the Bucks and their potential starts with their stud MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis, the aptly named “Greek Freak,” is a 6’11” point-forward with a wingspan rivaling that of a fully grown pterodactyl. If his physical stature is impressive, it’s nothing compared to the numbers he’s putting up in his fourth season. Giannis is averaging a career best 29 points and 10 rebounds. He’s second in the league in scoring and 10th in rebounding and he just turned 23 years old.
If you’re trying to buy Giannis stock, it’s too late because I bought it all. Sorry bout it.
Antetokounmpo may be the face of the Bucks, but he’s hardly solely responsible for their early-season success. After tearing his hamstring prior to start of last season and appearing in only 25 games, Khris Middleton is back in full force averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentages from both the floor and the free throw line.
The Bucks also traded for Eric Bledsoe and in 15 games with Milwaukee is averaging 18 points a game. If you remember, Bledsoe forced his way out of Phoenix after tweeting “I don’t wanna be here” which, from a basketball standpoint, I get: the Suns aren’t a very good team and the Bucks are. On the other hand, Milwaukee gets very cold this time of year and Phoenix doesn’t get cold, well ever. I’m just saying the low for Milwaukee this week is 27 degrees; the low for Phoenix is 68. But to each his own.
What fascinates me about this Bucks team is that they don’t really excel in anything. The Bucks are a bottom-third team in both points and assists, they’re statistically the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and are ahead of only the Kings, Spurs and Grizzlies in pace. They aren’t compensating by being stout on defense either: they’re 17th in defensive rating and dead last in opponent three-point percentage.
Yet Milwaukee arrives with a 15-10 record and in enviable position within their conference. Maybe they pass the eye test and not the stats test. Maybe the whole is greater than the sum of their parts. Whatever the cause may be, New Orleans had better be ready, and hopefully Anthony Davis, who is listed as questionable, will be available and raring to go.
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Milwaukee Bucks
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: December 13, 2017, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM