Opposition Intel: Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Pelicans Preview With Rick Stone

As the Milwaukee Bucks look to get back to winning ways after a few days off, we caught up with Rick Stone of Pelican Debrief as the New Orleans Pelicans are the visitors to Milwaukee.

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Welcome to Opposition Intel!

After an ugly overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, the Milwaukee Bucks have had a few days off to rest and regroup.

Now, upon their return, the big question will be do we see a performance similar to that game in Dallas, or one akin to the games prior when Milwaukee looked incredibly tough to beat.

The opponent on this occasion is the New Orleans Pelicans, who are still searching for their first win of the season. The Bucks beat the Pelicans in New Orleans a little over a week ago behind a strong night from Giannis Antetokounmpo, and will be looking for a repeat performance on their home court.

Ahead of the action, we spoke to New Orleans Pelicans writer and friend of the site Rick Stone to find out exactly what to expect in the game, and to learn about what matchups we should be looking out for.

Rick writes about the Pelicans as a site expert over at FanSided’s Pelican Debrief. You can follow him on Twitter at @RickStoneNBA.

Let’s take a look at what he had to say.

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Searching For Wins

Adam McGee (@AdamMcGee11): With an 0-8 start to the season it goes without saying that the Pelicans’ start has been worse than most would have imagined to be possible. Is there an obvious path to improvement from what you’ve seen so far?

Rick Stone (@RickStoneNBA): There’s a path to improvement that can be seen, but it’s tough to tell if that improvement can make the current roster a competitive team. The Pelicans are playing most of their players out of their roles. Solomon Hill is not the major scoring option fans had hoped for. Guys like E’Twaun Moore, Buddy Hield and Tim Frazier are playing way bigger roles than their current talent can handle right now. And it’s showing.

It’s not that the players are bad. New Orleans has almost won a few games, including being close in both Warriors contests this year. However, the best way to describe the Pelicans is “incomplete”. There’s something missing. While they are improving in general, there is a lack of talent and leadership that needs fixing, before improvement will really show.

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Desperate Times

Adam: The Bucks lost their last game to the Dallas Mavericks, a team who were winless up until that point. It was far from the best game from either side, but the Mavs showed a hunger and a desperation to snap their streak. Could we see something similar from the Pelicans or have there been no real signs of that kind of desire in recent games?

Rick: The Pelicans are most certainly scrapping and desperate to win a game. They’ve shown that in each and every battle so far. The problem is their game has not been exhibited for 48 minutes. One of the odd surprises so far is the fact the bench has been more effective in general than the starting unit. The hunger from the young guys on the reserves have kept games winnable.

The team is trying their best. It’s not a lack of effort. Unfortunately, until they play a full game, without a bunch of 2-3 minute bursts of no offense and lackluster defense, there’s not much to expect in the wins department.

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Countering Giannis

Adam: As he has done against a number of teams so far this season, in the first meeting between the Bucks and Pelicans, Giannis Antetokounmpo was dominant. What does New Orleans have to do to try and slow him down or will they focus their attention on limiting what Milwaukee gets from the rest of their team?

Rick: The major problem with Giannis for New Orleans is the fact they do not have a player that can guard him. Anthony Davis defending him is the best bet going forward, but the Pelicans have focused this offseason on defensive switching. They want each player to be able to switch on pick and rolls and guard whoever is the other matchup. That strategy gets counteracted with Giannis at the point.

Alvin Gentry seems like he’s okay with the idea of Giannis getting his on defensive switches from last matchup. The team’s focus will likely be on keeping the bigs out of the paint and contesting the long range shooters Milwaukee has.

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Matchup To Watch

Adam: Aside from guys like Giannis and Anthony Davis, do any particular players or matchups stand out to you as being potentially decisive in this game?

Rick: The Pelicans had major problems with Jabari Parker last time around. His overall game is beyond scary for a team that does not have superb all-around defenders on the wing. The Pelicans have tried Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham on him last game, which did not limit his offensive firepower. Parker got to the line for seven free-throws last time around.

Looking at how New Orleans tries to limit him this time could be the key to the game. Dante Cunningham and Hill each taking duties on him at a time would be the expected matchup. It’ll be interesting to see if either can limit Jabari’s overall impact on the game.

Final Predictions

Adam: What’s your final prediction for how Thursday’s game between the two teams will finish up?

Rick: The Bucks are an exciting basketball team that looks to have great chemistry on their team. New Orleans is not there yet. Until the Pelicans can show they can win a game, it is really hard to give them the respect to predict a win.

Milwaukee has the tools to beat New Orleans, even if Anthony Davis goes off for a massive game. While it should be a close one yet again, the Bucks are more likely to walk off their home floor with a win Thursday night.

Thanks to Rick for joining us and giving us some Pelicans insight. Once again, be sure to follow Rick on Twitter at @RickStoneNBA and read his work on Pelican Debrief.

Be sure to check back in with us on Friday for all of the reactions to Thursday’s game from the Bradley Center, where tip-off is at 7pm CT.

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