While the Boston Celtics lead the way in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers are right behind them. The pair already have 12 wins on the board this season and are shaping up as title contenders.
The pair go head-to-head on Friday night in what will be a real test of the Cavs’ championship ambitions. They were seen as outsiders in the summer, but Donovan Mitchell has clicked from the start and they’ve made a red-hot opening to the season.
Can the Cavs take another step against the 2021 champions, or will the Bucks continue their fantastic record at home? With the pair sitting in the top three in the league, there’s little doubt that this is the standout clash from Friday’s slate.
These two have two of the leading offensive players in the league, but the real secret to their success has been their defensive records. The pair are in the top three in the division in terms of their defensive ratings, with the Bucks top of the chart with 105.8 points conceded per 100 possessions.
The Cavs aren’t far behind, as they sit third in the league for their defensive rating. They haven’t made a huge leap in that regard, having finished third in the 2021/22 campaign. Their strong defensive core carried over from last season, with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley proving to be a fearsome pair when guarding the paint.
The pair both have a defensive rating of under 108 points, which leaves the over/under delicately poised at 217. However, the quality of the two sides on the offensive end may well point towards the over at .
It’s hard not to view this game as a clash between their respective standout players, especially on the back of the season they’re each having. They both sit inside the top six for points per game in the league this season, each averaging over 30 a night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is currently shading it, with 30.5 points per game to Donovan Mitchell’s 30.1. Of course, it will likely come down to who can silence the opposition’s star, which could favour the Cavs.
The big-man pairing of Allen and Mobley should challenge Giannis, but the Bucks are potentially without Jrue Holiday for this clash. He’s their standout guard and the best man to put on Mitchell. The All-Star is fresh from posting 34 points in the Cavs’ recent win over the Portland Trail Blazers, so the Bucks may struggle to keep him quiet.
The Bucks have one of the best home records in the league, as one of only two teams to have won nine home matches this season. They’re 9-2 at the Fiserv Forum, which has seen the Bucks installed as 4/6 favourites for the win. Meanwhile, the Cavs are .
The visitors have had a mixed time on the road this season, winning five of nine trips. However, they’ve had a tough away schedule, already going on a West coast road trip. They also head into this one in form, having won each of their last four matches to move within one game of the Bucks in the standings.
The Bucks may be impressive at home but they’re coming off the back of a home loss to the Chicago Bulls. They’ve also been beaten four times by Eastern Conference opponents, compared to the Cavs’ 10-2 record against sides from their own conference.
The problem with the Cavs is their season has been one of streaks. They bounced back from an opening night loss to win eight straight, before losing five on the spin. They’ve bounced back with a four-game winning streak, but that could be about to turn given the quality of the opposition.
They went to Milwaukee during that last losing streak and ended up with a 113-98 defeat, but with the Cavs in better form, this one should be a closer battle. The points spread is also set quite close at three points either way, with the Bucks with a -3 disadvantage following their blow-out victory in the last encounter.