The Los Angeles Clippers continue their playoff push and put their six-game winning streak on the line with a tough trip to face the Milwaukee Bucks.
Live NBA: LA Clippers @ Milwaukee
The Clippers (45-30) are rolling through their schedule and peaking at the right time. They enter this contest having won six games in a row and 11 of their last 12. They've also won eight straight games against Eastern Conference opponents, but only two of those have come away from home.
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Nevertheless, with this winning streak, the Clippers have bolted up the Western Conference standings to the No 5 seed, where they hold a half-game lead over the Jazz, a one-game lead over the Thunder and a two-game lead over the Spurs.
Most importantly, however, they are just two games behind the fourth-place Rockets, making the home court advantage in the first round a real possibility. This makes every game a must-win for this team going forward.
Starting guard Patrick Beverley is deemed questionable after injuring his right hip last time out against Minnesota. Landry Shamet (ankle) is also questionable. If both players sit out, Tyrone Wallace, Garrett Temple and Jerome Robinson could see extra time.
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As for the Bucks (56-19), a win in this encounter would give them the opportunity to clinch a winning record against playoff teams in the Western Conference this season, as they currently boast an 8-6 record with just two such opponents remaining on the schedule.
Milwaukee are coming off a convincing home victory against the Rockets, 108-94, which extended their home winning streak over Western Conference opponents to six games.
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But this type of success has stretched out across the entire season, as the Fiserv Forum has been a place where western foes enjoy little or no success. The Bucks are an impressive 10-1 at home in interconference matchups with their one loss coming to the Warriors.
This will be the second time this season the Bucks and Clippers face off. Los Angeles scored a 128-126 overtime win in their first meeting.
Key battle: Lou Williams vs Eric Bledsoe
Bucks' two-way terror Bledsoe is coming off an impressive outing against the Houston Rockets where he top-scored with 23 points and gave James Harden fits with his rugged defense. Bledsoe limited to Harden to 23 points (on a whopping 26 shots) and allowed him to make just one his nine three-point tries.
Williams is the Clippers' leading scorer (20.3 points per game) despite playing just 26.7 minutes per game off the bench.
Like Harden, Williams is a silky, crafty scorer able to put up a lot of points in a short space of time. He's also made his share of clutch and game-winning buckets.
Will Bledsoe ensure Williams has a night to forget or will the Clippers' top-scorer have his way with the Bucks defense?
Last time out
53.0 - That's the average number of points the Clippers bench contributes per game, the most of any team in the NBA.
As previously noted, the Clippers' bench scoring is led by sixth man Lou Williams. But it is also boosted by the energetic play of big man Montrezl Harrell (16.6 points per game) and contributions from veteran scorer Wilson Chandler and former Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green.
Thursday night's games
- Orlando Magic @ Detroit Pistons, 11pm
- Brooklyn Nets @ Philadelphia 76ers, 11pm
- Toronto Raptors @ New York Knicks, 11:30pm
- Dallas Mavericks @ Miami Heat, 11:30pm
- Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans, 12am
- Denver Nuggets @ Houston Rockets, 12am
- Los Angeles Clippers @ Milwaukee Bucks, 12am, live on Sky Sports Arena
- Cleveland Cavaliers @ San Antonio Spurs, 12:30am
One of watch (Clippers): Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari has always been one of the NBA's purest shooters but his progress has been hampered by frequent injuries.
This season he has stayed (relatively) fit, playing in 63 of 75 possible games (on course for the third-best return of his 11-year NBA career) and the Clippers have reaped the benefits.
Gallinari is averaging 19.8 points a game with impressive shooting percentages - 46.3 FG%, 43.8 3PT%, 90.5 FT%.
One to watch (Bucks): Brook Lopez
The Bucks' summer addition of Lopez quietly laid the foundations for the transformation of the Bucks from low playoff seeds last season to the NBA's most dominant team in this campaign.
Lopez was the first 7ft NBA center to transform himself into a more-than-viable three-point shooter. His long-range offense creates the space inside aids Antetokounmpo's relentless drives to the basket.
Lopez has also anchored a Bucks' defense that boasts the NBA's best defensive rating (104.5 points allowed per 100 possessions), protecting the rim while Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Bledsoe terrorise opponents on the perimeter.