PREVIEW: Bucks put up improved 3-point shooting vs. Cavs’ susceptible D

By Field Level Media
Jan 30, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) takes a free throw against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Already one of the league’s better 3-point shooting teams a year ago, the Milwaukee Bucks have been much more dangerous from beyond the arc so far this season.

The Bucks lit up the Pacers by hitting 21-of-48 3-point attempts in a 130-110 rout on Wednesday, marking the fifth time this season they have made at least 20 triples in a game.

Milwaukee will look to continue its torrid shooting when it opens a six-game road trip on Friday night against the Cavaliers in the first of back-to-back games at Cleveland.

The Bucks are shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range through 21 games this season and averaging 15.8 made treys on 39.4 attempts per game. Those totals are up from last season when the Bucks shot 35.5 percent from deep and averaged 13.8 made triples on 38.9 attempts.

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“I think there’s a lot of guys that don’t get credit for their ability to facilitate and pass the ball,” guard Bryn Forbes said. “It helps us get easy shots and open shots, which boosts the percentage up a lot.”

The Cavaliers, who have lost three of their past four games, might be the perfect team for Milwaukee to stay hot from the perimeter. Cleveland has allowed teams to shoot 39.3 percent from 3-point range this season (29th in the league) and just allowed the Clippers to make 20-of-34 triples (58.8 percent) in a 121-99 loss on Wednesday.

“We didn’t defend the 3-point line well enough to give ourselves a shot and on the offensive end we didn’t generate enough 3s to give ourselves an opportunity out of it,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a little more of a distributor in this more spread-out Bucks’ attack so far. Although the two-time MVP’s scoring (27.0 points per game) and rebounding (11.2 per game) averages are slightly down from a season ago, his assists (6.0 per game) are a tick higher than the 5.6 he finished with last season.

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Antetokounmpo finished with a triple-double (21 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists) despite playing only 31 minutes against Indiana.

“He’s playing really, really unselfishly,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s seeing things and making the right read and the right passes. I just think he’s in a great place mindset-wise. He’s aggressive and attacking when it’s needed. He’s finding his teammates and finding opportunities for everybody else when it’s needed.”

Collin Sexton finished with 27 points and Darius Garland had 23 against the Clippers, but Cleveland shot only 10 attempts from deep and made four.

“Playing to our identity, that’s the most important thing,” Bickerstaff said. “We want to be competitive; we want to be selfless. If we do that, that will lay the foundation for what we want to be moving forward. And then the results will come as we start to jell and figure each other out and hopefully get some of our healthy bodies back as well.”

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On the injury front, Larry Nance Jr. (sprained right wrist) has missed Cleveland’s past two games. Kevin Love (right calf strain), who has played in only two games this season, recently resumed basketball activities.

–Field Level Media