Milwaukee Bucks vs. Houston Rockets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
In a battle of inter-conference foes, the Milwaukee Bucks will travel to play the Houston Rockets.
Led by Brandon Jennings, the Bucks currently rest at 27-28. They're 13-14 on the road and 7-11 against the Western Conference.
This is their second game of a road trip through Texas, as Milwaukee defeated the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 25 by a score of 95-90.
As for the Rockets, James Harden has led this team to a record of 31-27. They're 19-8 at home and 18-7 against the Eastern Conference.
Both teams are in eighth place in their respective conferences.
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: FSN Wisconsin & CSN Houston
Records: Milwaukee Bucks (27-28) at Houston Rockets (31-27)
Betting Line: Rockets -8, via Bovada
Milwaukee Bucks' Injury Report
Houston Rockets' Injury Report
Key Storyline: Holding Postseason Ground
Both the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets are placed eighth in their respective conferences. Both teams hold a lead of four games or less over the franchise directly behind them.
In other words, every game these two teams play is a must-win.
For the Bucks, they have lost eight or their past 11 games. A win here would go a long way towards rebuilding their confidence and righting the ship for their postseason push.
As for Houston, it is 6-5 during its past 11 games. While that is a record above .500, the Rockets are well-aware of the teams that are getting hot behind them.
Defeating the Bucks would go a long way towards creating a more comfortable cushion between the Rockets and those that are hot on their tail.
Key Matchup: James Harden vs. Monta Ellis
The last time these two teams played, the Houston Rockets outscored the Milwaukee Bucks by a 68-43 margin during the second half. At halftime, however, Milwaukee was up 58-47.
Monta Ellis was a major reason why.
Ellis had eight points and seven assists entering the third quarter. Unfortunately, Ellis would come up with only four points and no assists during the second half.
James Harden, meanwhile, lit up the scoreboard for 29 points.
If Ellis is able to score and facilitate at a high level, the Bucks can offset Harden's offensive production. If Ellis fails to convert his field-goal attempts at a high rate, however, the Rockets will run away with this one.
It's all about the shooting guard battle here.
X-Factor: Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks
Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks has emerged as one of the premier interior defenders in the NBA. Not only is he a supreme shot-blocker, but he's proven capable of shutting down the opposition, as well.
Matched up against the Houston Rockets, it will be on Sanders to control the glass and cut off the paint.
James Harden may be the best in the NBA at penetrating an opposing defense and taking it to the basket. It is there that Harden draws fouls at a league-high rate of 9.9 free-throw attempts per game.
The last time these two teams met, Sanders committed five fouls in 18 minutes.
As for his rebounding, Sanders will be tasked with matching up against Omer Asik. Asik is presently third in the NBA at 11.5 rebounds and 10th at 3.3 offensive boards per game.
Containing these two men will decide whether or not Milwaukee can pick up a win here.
Who will win?
The Houston Rockets excel against the Eastern Conference, in part because they run an up-tempo offense that few in the East can handle.
It just so happens that the Milwaukee Bucks are one of the few teams who can.
This is a statement game for both teams. Neither side can afford to lose as the postseason picture takes shape, and neither will give an inch to reach their ultimate goal of victory.
The fact of the matter is Houston is the superior up-tempo squad in this game—playing at home, that will be on full display.
James Harden will have this crowd fired up as he takes it to the rack and consistently converts and-1 opportunities. This will lead to Larry Sanders getting into foul trouble and the Bucks' perimeter needing to keep the pace.
Monta Ellis' shot selection will be tested in this one, which could be the ultimate deciding factor.
Houston Rockets 110, Milwaukee Bucks 102
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