The Bucks (9-8) are traveling to Utah Saturday to face off with the Jazz (8-11). Both teams haven’t played since Wednesday. With Thanksgiving having passed, we can only hope players on the team didn’t eat too much turkey these past two days. Nobody wants to see what’s anticipated to be a slow-paced game move even slower. Between the Jazz’ slow paced offense and Bucks’ head coach Jason Kidd still acclimatizing newly acquired point guard Eric Bledsoe (this will be his eighth game as a Buck) to his system, this game could very well conclude with a low score. On the bright side, the time off was absolutely necessary for Bucks’ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in order for him to avoid missing another game after sitting out of Wednesday’s contest against the Phoenix Suns due to knee soreness in the same knee that provided discomfort for the Bucks’ forward. The rest was largely impactful as Giannis did participate in practice on Friday and is listed as ‘probable’ for Saturday.
That’s good news for the Bucks to know that they will be receiving their star player back sooner than later but what about the Jazz?
Unfortunately, the Jazz are still without their best player — especially on the defensive end — Rudy Gobert due to being shut down two weeks ago with a bone bruise suffered in his right knee. Gobert is one of the best defenders in the league and does lack tools on the offensive end although he still manages to make more of an impact on the offensive end than the stats will portray. Gobert is the third leading scorer on the Jazz but he leads the team in field goal percentage (62%), free throws attempts per game (5.0) and free throws made per game (3.6) while shooting at a career-high 72% from the stripe. But as I said, the statistics only tell half of the tale. The Jazz center makes the paint his home and is a huge presence in that area given his size, keen sense for grabbing offensive rebounds and athleticism to catch oops thrown in spots only he can reach with his eight-foot wingspan and 30-inch vertical leap. Without Gobert on the court, stopping Antetokounmpo (assuming he’s playing) will be virtually impossible given his versatility as a lengthy, near seven-footer that can play all five positions on both ends of the court. Gobert is not a player whose shoes can be fitted into while absent therefore until he returns to the starting lineup for the Jazz, it will take a collective effort on the defensive end to maintain the level of effort on both ends that they play with while on the court.
Gobert’s absence and Antetokounmpo’s presence is exactly why I have Milwaukee leaving Salt Lake City victorious. Antetokounmpo is one of the biggest threats to all teams this season with averages including a career-highs in points (29.7ppg), rebounds (10.3rpg), shooting percentage (55.2%), free throw attempts (8.4), and free throws made (6.4). Giannis’ may not be at 100% if he plays but, regardless he will be impactful all over the court for the Bucks leading them to a second straight victory.