Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 @ 8:00 PM ET
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
WATCH: ESPN, FSWIS, ATTSN-SW
Radio: 620 AM/103.3 FM WTMJ, 790 AM
The Rockets easily pushed past the Denver Nuggets on Monday night with a dominant 125-113 performance. James Harden put up 32 points on 14 assists, and PJ Tucker found his shot, going 7-11 from deep. Tonight the Houston Rockets face another tough opponent in the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks are rolling after a great win against the Utah Jazz where they put the pedal to the medal to add to their league best record of 28-11. How do the Bucks continue to dismantle opponents? It starts with defense.
The Bucks have the league leading net rating at 9.3, which is 3 more than the next team–the Boston Celtics–who have a 6.3 net rating. This dominance is assisted by the near-suffocating defense that the Bucks have put together, as they are tied for second in the NBA in blocks per game and fourth in defensive rating.
Adding to this, their rebounding unit is superb as they limit their opponents to a league low points off of 2nd chance opportunities at 10.7 per game. This makes sense given that they also lead the league in defensive rebounding percentage and defensive rebounds per game.
The Bucks are first in the league in eFG% at 55.3% which leads to an offensive rating that is second best at 113.5. As a team, the Bucks are second in 3 pointers made per game at 13.5. They are so deadly with their shooting because they are efficient with their passing. Not only are the Bucks fifth in the NBA in assists per game, they are also second in the NBA in points created off of assists with 65.8 per game and are 2nd in assists to pass percentage at 9.2%.
When the Bucks do make mistakes with their ball movement, they are fast to get back on transition defense, as they allow only the third lowest points off turnovers per game at 14.5 even though they turn the ball over the 15th most times per game.
Their efficiency as an offense is aided by their drives as they lead the league in field goals made off of drives to the lane per game. This driving forces the defense to crater inside which allows for a league leading number of 3 pointers made per game off of catching and shooting.
Not only is this driving good for ball movement, it’s good for spacing, as once again, the Milwaukee Bucks lead the league in “Wide Open” (6+ Feet) three pointers made per game at 7.8. The scary thing is is that even when the defenders are tight on the Bucks’ shooters, they still account for the second best eFG% at 50.1%.
It also helps that the Bucks have what might be considered the current MVP favorite in Giannis Antetokounmpo who, besides all of his other ridiculous stats, leads the NBA in kitchen sink Win Probability Added (the total win probability added for all box score stats).
So where do the Buck’s weaknesses lie? Pull-up shots. The Bucks have the third worst FG% on pull-up shots at 34.9% which accounts for the third least points off of pull-up bricks as well. That’s about it when it comes to their shortfalls.
Keys to the game for the Rockets:
- Live with the Bucks’ perimeter shots. Shooters gonna shoot, and there is little you can do about it.
- Try to force the Bucks into pull-up shots. Stop the drives and force the Bucks to take ill-advised jumpers.
- The Rockets need to be prepared to not be able to get many, if any, offensive rebounds. Early shot clock prayers will not cut it against this team as they are strong on the defensive boards.
- Don’t let up the gas. Rockets have a tendency to get a big lead and then lay off the pressure for too long, allowing the opposing team to catch up. You can’t do that against this team that has a knack for staying in games as they have only lost by 10 or more points 3 times this year.
Things to watch for:
- Clint Capela is a monster. Capela is on a tear as of late and in the last game, he scored 31 points on 72.2% from the field with a +/- of 26. What can he do against the tough Bucks?
- PJ Tucker has his three ball back. After going through a rough stretch where he was shooting 4-28 from deep, PJ looks like he has his groove going again, even if its not always in the corner. That pick and pop at the top of the key— if it stays consistent— is a lethal weapon moving forward.
- Gerald Green, the Houston Mayor. Gerald Green was splashing last game as he went 6-10 from deep after going a collective 4/15 the past two games. His bench presence is important, and I remain as convinced as ever that he is allergic to taking an on-balanced shot.
Prediction: Rockets 110-Bucks 103.
- PJ, Gerald Green, and Austin Rivers all produce.
- Clint Capela goes 20-15.