Milwaukee Bucks (-5.5, 191.5 o/u) at Denver Nuggets
The Milwaukee Bucks (32-27, 15-16 away) made some surprising moves at the deadline. The team, which was seven games over .500 in the East and firmly entrenched in a playoff spot, dealt leading scorer Brandon Knight to the Suns in a three-team trade that saw second-year point guard Michael Carter-Williams join the Bucks.
As expected, the move has not paid dividends this season. Milwaukee is just 1-4 since Carter-Williams replaced Knight in the lineup, losing 82-75 to Utah last time out. Since trading Knight, the Bucks have only downed MCW’s old team, the woeful Philadelphia 76ers.
The Bucks are still sixth in the East and have a six-game lead over seventh-place Miami. But it certainly looks like they’re destined to limp into the playoffs and meet an early demise.
Tonight, Milwaukee has the good fortune of playing another struggling team, the Denver Nuggets (20-39, 12-18 home). The Nuggets started off the season by surprising a few teams. But that didn’t last. Now the Brian Shaw-led squad has lost ten in a row at home and is still waiting for its first post-All Star game win.
“You’ve just got to find a way,” Denver center Kenneth Faried said. “You’ve got to play your heart out.”
The Nuggets, who are currently on a six-game losing streak, overall, can chalk up their recent woes to a lack of offense. The team is scoring only 87.8 PPG and shooting 36.1-percent in the last six.
Shaw knows he needs Faried (11.2 PPG with 8.5 RPG) and point guard Ty Lawson (16.3 PPG) to step up.
“I’ve got to find a way to get Ty going, get Kenneth going,” said Shaw. “Those two are our best players and we need to get them to play better. Everybody needs them, their energy, their aggressiveness. We’ve got to continue to figure out how to get more interest and more energy from those two guys in particular.”
The Nuggets have had success against Milwaukee recently, winning four in a row against the Bucks in Denver. But they’ll have a hard time turning their offensive struggles around against the stingy Milwaukee D.
“Our defense has always kept us in games throughout,” said Bucks coach Jason Kidd. “Sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves offensively when the ball isn’t going in.
“We’ve kind of forgotten that that is what we built this on, doing the little things.”
With the Nuggets struggling to score and the Bucks playing solid D, the over is at a low 191.5. Eventually the Nuggets, who average almost 100 PPG on the year, will start shooting the ball better again. Consider the over.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Ty Lawson) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)