Game: Milwaukee Bucks @ Portland Trail Blazers
Time: 10:00 p.m.
Odds: Bucks -4.5, Trail Blazers +4.5
When big-time stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard meet on the court tonight, both will be in the midst of impressively hot streaks. The visiting Bucks are on a streak of their own having won seven straight. They’ll look to extend the streak as well as close the gap with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings.
During the Bucks’ current winning streak, Antetokounmpo has displayed some of the form that earned him two NBA MVP awards. He has recorded a double-double in each game and is averaging 39.4 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per contest. He has games of 54 and 50 points, and he recorded a triple-double by scoring 35 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, and dishing out 11 assists in his team’s 123-115 victory over the Miami Heat at home on Saturday. It was his third triple-double of the season and the 32nd of his career.
Thanks to their recent run of success, Milwaukee has closed the gap to within one game of the Boston Celtics, who are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are at Detroit tonight and Milwaukee could pull even with Boston with a win over Portland.
Antetokounmpo poured in 37 points to lead Milwaukee to a 119-111 victory over Portland at home on November 21. This victory was Milwaukee’s 11th in the previous 13 games that have been played in this series. Due to a calf injury, Lillard did not participate in that game. Lillard is back to full health at this point and has scored at least 40 points four times in the last seven games, including a season-high 60 points against the Utah Jazz on January 25.
Even though they were defeated by the Chicago Bulls by a score of 129-121 on Saturday, the Trail Blazers are 5-2 over their last seven games. In the loss to the Bulls, Lillard finished with 40 points scored. During this current seven-game stretch, Lillard has a scoring average of 40 points and has made 36 three-pointers.
The Trail Blazers showed signs of exhaustion in the second half of their game against the Bulls, in which they blew a 17-point lead and ultimately lost the game. The Portland Trail Blazers had defeated the Washington Wizards by a score of 124-116 the night before, after coming back from a 20-point deficit to win the game.
The Trail Blazers started the day on Sunday in 11th place in the Western Conference with a crucial stretch of the season approaching. The game on Monday is the first of five consecutive home games that will take place before the All-Star break. With Antetokounmpo playing at an elite level and Khris Middleton (24 points against Miami) getting back in the groove, the Bucks will be a test for Portland.
Due to knee, wrist, and ankle injuries, Middleton has only been able to participate in 14 games so far this season. However, despite only playing for a total of 20 minutes in each of the last three games, he has averaged 19.3 points per game. Portland will be without C Jusuf Nurkic due to a calf injury. He won’t return until after the All-Star break.
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