We're only barely a quarter of the way through the season, but some teams are already facing a lot of adversity.
Our featured matchup for Tuesday will put two teams in precarious situations: the Milwaukee Bucks and the Portland Trailblazers (9:00 am on NBA TV Philippines).
Any time Damian Lillard is around a basketball court is must-watch, especially when Portland is in a situation like they're in now.
Dame's backcourt running mate CJ McCollum was having a breakout year until he suffered a foot injury, while bigman Jusuf Nurkic was only just getting in shape before fracturing his right wrist. Both won’t be back at least until late March.
Other teams would be out of contention after losing two stars, but not the Blazers. Dame won't have it. Other superstars have carried teams into the playoffs with their brilliant performances. Lillard's solo act, however, is one of the most electric shows in the league with reckless dives to the rim and signature pull-up threes from the logo.
Portland is 10-8 and is still very much in the thick of a crowded Western Conference playoff race. If the Blazers can keep games close, they’ll win enough tight games with Lillard providing clutch shots like he did in their last game versus Chicago.
Stopping a late Lillard onslaught is the perfect test for the 11-8 Milwaukee Bucks. Last year's most dominant regular season team has been inconsistent, so far. Of their 11 wins, eight have come by double-digit margins. But, they've also lost games to teams that they would have blown out last year like the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, and New Orleans Pelicans.
Fourth quarters have been the acid test for the Bucks. Like in last year's playoffs, it’s been interesting to watch Milwaukee try to close out games. The obvious answer should be just giving the ball to two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. But, as many skills the Greek has freakishly developed, Giannis has yet to add the weapons of other deadly closers: a reliable midrange shot and consistency at the free throw line.
The Bucks could go to Khris Middleton or Jrue Holiday, but against loaded teams like the Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Lakers, or even teams that have several ball-hungry playmakers like Charlotte, the Bucks have often been out-gunned late in games.
Milwaukee could very well blow out the short-handed Blazers, but their defense has been faltering lately, and their back-to-back losses have stemmed from their struggles on that end.
More likely, this should be a great face-off between a Portland team already with their backs against the wall and a Milwaukee squad trying to snap out of a skid.
Catch the game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trailblazers at 9:00 am live on NBA TV Philippines on Cignal TV (Ch. 92 for SD and Ch. 262 for HD) and on League Pass.