Houston Rockets vs Milwaukee Bucks game preview - December 11

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v Milwaukee Bucks
Houston Rockets v Milwaukee Bucks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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Houston Rockets vs Milwaukee Bucks: Player to watch

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ best player and likely the best player in the world, but he isn’t the player to watch. The Bucks are a defense-first team, and their defensive foundation is Brook Lopez.  

Lopez is a star in his role. He is one of the game’s elite rim protectors and allows the Bucks to deploy Antetokounmpo as a roving death machine. He grades out as excellent across a host of defensive metrics, but if you like blocks, he leads the league in both block percentage and blocks per game. When he’s on the court, the Bucks have a 106.85 defensive rating, and opponents shoot 49.6% on 2-pointers. 

Lopez isn’t just a lumbering rim protector. He’s also a lumbering floor spacer. He’s shooting 40.7% from 3-point range on 5.6 attempts a game and is averaging 14.9 points per game. It’s his highest points per game since 2016-17 when he was known as an offensive first low-post scorer with defensive limitations. 

The Rockets will have their hands full trying to slow down Antetokounmpo, but they can’t forget about Lopez. He engulfs shots at the rim and is a dangerous 3-level scorer. The best way to neutralize him is through early foul trouble, which is easier said than done. The Bucks are excellent at letting Lopez drop in pick and roll coverage which limits his exposure on the perimeter. The Rockets’ best bet to limit Lopez’s court time is through Alepren Sengun post ups.