It was reported Friday that Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe suffered a rib fracture that could keep him out on opening night against the Houston Rockets.
With the Houston Rockets set to tipoff the regular season in less than two weeks, their opening night opponents could be without a key player. Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe suffered an injury that could sideline him for the Oct. 24 matchup and beyond.
Last season, Bledsoe was a thorn in the side of the Rockets, averaging 16.5 points and six assists per game as Milwaukee swept the series 2-0. The 6-1 point guard was particularly effective when the Rockets traveled to Milwaukee, as he tied James Harden for a game-high 23 points while connecting on 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Eric Bledsoe has averaged 14.1 points and 4.8 points over his nine-year career and is frequently tough to handle for the Rockets, especially when you consider how much attention last year’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo already commands. Just as important, Bledsoe has always been a great defender, even earning NBA All-Defensive First Team honors last season.
In the two matchups between Houston and Milwaukee last season, Eric was frequently the primary defender on James Harden and showed an ability to at least slow him down for stretches. The Beard still managed to score 23 and 42 in the two games, however, it took him a total of 56 shot attempts to achieve that.
Rockets insider Alykhan Bijani offered some insight into how Bledsoe usually plays Harden when matched up with him:
The #Rockets open the season against the Bucks in 13 days. Bledsoe spends a lot of time defensively matched up against James Harden, forcing him right and playing from behind to deny the step-back. https://t.co/rOTdHZlets
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) October 11, 2019
Given how James Harden keeps adding moves and tricks to his arsenal, maybe it won’t make a difference who he’s matched up with at this point. In just a few preseason games, Harden has already created a highlight reel of ridiculous offensive basketball.
Still though, not having Eric Bledsoe would be a huge blow to the Bucks’ chances of stealing the game on opening night at the Toyota Center. Considering they also lost Malcolm Brogdon in the offseason, they would likely have to start George Hill, who doesn’t produce at quite the same rate as either player.
As reported, Bledsoe is expected to miss between two-to-three weeks to recover, so there is still a chance he is ready to go by opening night if he heals quickly. If this doesn’t turn out to be the case, the Rockets should have a clear advantage when Milwaukee rolls into town.
*Update: Bledsoe is expected to start Thursday, per Alykhan Bijani.