REDIRECT::Bucks-Nuggets features matchup of top young players

REDIRECT::Bucks-Nuggets features matchup of top young players

Published Nov. 11, 2018 12:16 a.m. ET

Sundays in November are dominated by the NFL, but this Sunday offers a matchup of two of the best young players in the NBA on teams that have some eerie similarities early in the season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic are dynamic, unselfish players who can stuff a stat sheet, but sometimes it isn't enough. Both of their teams have created buzz with fast starts, and both are the only teams to beat the defending champions so far this season.

And both are a little sore heading into their game after stinging losses that, ironically, featured almost identical finishes that spoiled big games by both.

The Milwaukee Bucks (9-3) battled the surprising Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 18 rebounds but watched as Lou Williams hit a floater with 0.3 of a second left in overtime to beat Milwaukee 128-126.

It was if Williams watched the Brooklyn-Denver game on Friday night. In that game, Jokic broke out of an offensive funk with 37 points and 21 rebounds, but, like Antetokounmpo, he saw his team go down at the end when Caris LeVert hit a floater in the lane with 0.3 of a second left to give the Nets a 112-110 win.

To add to the irony, Denver is also 9-3. So while it's early in the season, both teams are looking for some psyche-soothing redemption on Sunday night at Pepsi Center.

The Bucks might be a little more tired playing two straight days, but they have had a chance to rest players at the end of most games. They haven't had many tight ones and Saturday's was a different scenario for them.


"Offensively, I felt kind of weird going down in the fourth quarter and overtime because we've been blowing teams out this year," Antetokounmpo told reporters after the loss.

Denver has played in some close ones, without much success of late. The Nuggets pulled out a squeaker on Halloween in Chicago when Paul Millsap's putback at the buzzer gave them the win. But the last two games have been two-point losses.

The bright spot in Friday's loss was Jokic's bounce-back game. The center had inexplicably gone quiet offensively, attempting just 18 shots and averaging just 5.25 points per game in the first four games of November. He took just one shot in a loss on Tuesday at Memphis but was 14 of 22 against the Nets.

The 22 shots were four more than the previous four games combined.

The Nuggets weren't as caught up in the last-second shot by LeVert as they were about the start when they fell behind double digits early.

"You can always look at this game and say it came down to the last play," coach Michael Malone told reporters after the loss. "To me, we lost that game in the first quarter."

For the first time since Malone took over as coach four seasons ago, Denver is being talked about as a force in the Western Conference. And now with LeBron James with the Lakers, Milwaukee has a legitimate shot for a deep playoff run.

It makes Sunday's game more intriguing, even in November.