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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks @ Cleveland Cavaliers preview

The Cleveland Cavaliers face a tough clash in the second night of a back-to-back following their meeting with the Golden State Warriors.

After playing the 2022 champions on Friday night, the Cavs host the 2021 champions on Saturday.

Both of these sides are lagging behind the runaway Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference, but both hope to be contenders in the postseason. Their struggles of late have seen the pair slip 4.5 and 6.5 games back respectively, but they should record a top-six finish at worst.

The Bucks are currently 7/2 To Win The Eastern Conference, with the Cavaliers 8/1. These two could well be reunited down the line in this season’s Play-offs, so this could be a preview of bigger clashes to come.

Bucks battling without Giannis

WhatMIL Bucks @ CLE Cavaliers
WhereRocket Mortgage Field House, Cleveland, Ohio
When00:40, Sunday, 22nd January 2023
How to watchNBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming
OddsMIL Bucks 11/10, CLE Cavaliers 10/13

The visitors have spent the last week or so getting by without their star man, as Giannis Antetokounmpo has missed four straight games. That started with back-to-back defeats against the Miami Heat, but they bounced back with victories over the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors.

The Greek Freak has been upgraded to questionable for this one and they’ll clearly need him. Those difficult games in Miami can’t match up to the test they face against the current fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavs have a winning record against sides that are above .500 and they have an impressive 19-4 home record. The Cavs lost both trips to Milwaukee, going down 138-98 and 114-106, but they’re a completely different side at home, having lost 14 of 23 on the road.

While Jrue Holiday powered the Bucks past the Pacers and Raptors with 72 points across those two games, the Bucks will require more if they are to dent the Cavs on this trip.

Is Ingles the answer to Cavs' defence?

The hosts aren’t the kind of soft-touch side that are going to let Holiday rack up points at that rate. They’ve looked like contenders this term thanks to an excellent showing on the defensive end, despite Donovan Mitchell’s arrival getting most of the focus at the other end of the court.

The Cavs sit second in the NBA in terms of their defensive rating and they are particularly strong when it comes to shutting down teams in the paint. Given the rim protection they have in Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, that’s hardly a surprise.

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The Bucks could well turn to Joe Ingles to counter the Cavs given his excellent three-point shooting. Their free agent signing only made his debut a few days shy of Christmas but he’s shown that he’s still a threat from deep, shaking off some poor early displays.

His five threes in a win at the Knicks show what he’s capable of, having shot at 45% in that one in a 17-point haul. He could prove to be a great option off the bench if the Bucks find their path to the paint blocked off by the Cavs’ big men.

Bucks can edge tight game

The Cavs head into this clash off the back of a 120-114 loss to the Warriors - their third defeat in their last four. They’re starting to slide and have been without Donovan Mitchell for the previous few games, which has had an impact on how they’re priced heading into this encounter.

The Cavs are -1.5 on the spread, with the Bucks 21/20 on the Money Line. The visitors are a huge threat here, especially after the news that Giannis trained on Thursday without a hitch.

The Bucks would likely be shorter if Giannis was confirmed to be available, especially as they’ve been strong in tough matchups this term. The visitors have a 14-7 record against teams above .500 and they have a solid 11-11 away record in a season where almost all the top sides have been brilliant at home.

This is the last meeting between the two sides in the regular season and the Bucks look good value to round it off with a series sweep against the Cavs. I can see Holiday’s improved production helping a returning Giannis over the line and with the spread so short it looks best to back the visitors outright.

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