Extra Pass: Can Bucks stop Cavs in Central Division showdown?

Published November 25, 2022, 12:48 PMPolo Bustamante

The top two teams in the Central Division go head-to-head tomorrow on NBA TV Philippines.

What’s up with the Cleveland Cavaliers?

After a red-hot start to the season, the Cavaliers have cooled down a bit. They lost five straight games in the first two weeks of November, all against playoff contenders. Since then, they’re simmering once again, racking up four straight wins heading into this matchup.

Their defense took a mini-break to start the month, allowing 113.8 points during their quick losing streak. It seems that the team has righted itself as they’ve limited opponents to just 101.8 points per game during this current winning streak.

Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland are both playing at an All-Star level. In their last four games, Mitchell has been on fire, averaging nearly 28 points per game on 50 percent shooting. Garland has been even better, averaging 29 points and 8.5 assists during that same span. 

With their elite defense back and their backcourt duo torching opponents, the Cavaliers are looking to avenge the last loss, which coincidentally, came at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

What’s up with the Milwaukee Bucks?

The Bucks zoomed to the top of the standings after they started the season winning nine straight games. After that they’ve been up and down, going 3-5 in their next eight games.

The problem isn’t their defense. They’re the best defensive team in the league, limiting opponents to just 106.4 points per 100 possessions on less than 45 percent shooting from the field. Brook Lopez deserves a ton of credit for Milwaukee’s defense. He’s walled off the paint, leading the league in blocks with 2.6 per game. He has 45 blocks for the season, nine more than the second-best shot blocker in the league.

It’s the other side of the ball where the Bucks have a problem. In their five losses so far this season, they’ve only managed to put up 102.4 points per game. They’re definitely missing Khris Middleton who’s been a connector on offense with his ability to create for himself and the players on the floor with him. 

Another issue plaguing the Bucks is the shooting of Giannis Antetokounmpo. While he’s still putting up 30 points per game, his percentages are all down from last season (52% FG, 21% 3PT, 58% FT). That’s been a cause of frustration for him and it boiled over after their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

This is a big game for the Bucks against another East playoff team and they need to prove that their offense can produce against another elite defense.

Storyline to watch out for

In case this game goes down the wire is it time to hack-a-Giannis?

With his free throw shooting currently at Shaquille O’Neal levels, the Cleveland coaching staff could opt to willingly send him to the stripe to slow him down. Because of his much-publicized blow-out in Philadelphia, everyone knows that his shooting problems are also affecting him mentally. 

That could be a chink in the armor of the Greek Freak, one that the Cavaliers could poke their lance through to get the win.


When the Bucks won against the Cavaliers earlier this month, Jarrett Allen was out due to injury. Because of that, Splash Mountain feasted against Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, and his brother Robin. He scored 29 points and hit seven 3-pointers. Now that Allen is back, Lopez and the rest of the Bucks are facing stiffer competition. 

Just like Lopez, Allen’s ability to protect the paint is also crucial for the Cavaliers. His return from injury is what sparked the team’s current winning run. With Allen in the paint, Antetokounmpo doesn’t have a clear path to the hoop anymore. That changes how he gets his points and creates for the rest of his team.

The Cavaliers are out for revenge and they’re going to even up the season series with a big win over their Central Division rival.

Where to watch

Catch the second-seeded Bucks take on the third-seeded Cavaliers live on NBA League Pass at 9:00 AM and at 1:30 PM via same-day telecast on NBA TV Philippines.