Extra Pass: Zion-Giannis show coming right up

Published December 19, 2022, 5:00 PMPolo Bustamante

The New Orleans-Milwaukee game will be live at 9:00 AM on NBA League Pass.

What’s up with the New Orleans Pelicans?

The New Orleans Pelicans are coming off three straight losses heading into the matchup against the Bucks. Before this current slide that they’re on, they were the best team in the West, riding a seven game winning streak.

Even during this three-game skid, the Pelicans are showing that they’re no pushovers. It takes a superhuman effort from their opponents to be able to beat them. The Utah Jazz needed a combined 70 points from Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson to get a win over New Orleans. In their last loss, Devin Booker had to go supernova, scoring 58 points for the Phoenix Suns to come out on top.

That’s because the Pelicans have so many weapons offensively. In their seven-game winning streak, they averaged more than 118 points per game. Even during this losing run they’re still putting up 114 points per game. 

Zion Williamson has been the main offensive hub of this young team. He’s averaging 25.5 points on 61 percent shooting. That’s nothing new. Zion can bulldoze his way to buckets, easily. What’s been more surprising are the nearly five assists per game he’s dishing out. In some games, he’s even led the team in assists. Having a tank like Williamson create opportunities for the rest of the team is paying off. Guys playing off him like Jonas Valanciunas, Trey Murphy III, and CJ McCollum all benefit from Williamson’s passing.

Williamson is playing like Draymond Green on steroids. He’s looking to continue his roll, and hopefully help New Orleans end their losing streak.

What’s up with the Milwaukee Bucks?

The Bucks are back to being the best team in the NBA… sort of. The Bucks are 21-8 and are virtually tied with the Boston Celtics who are at 22-9, but they’re ranked above because they have less losses. They can fully overtake the Celtics with a win over the Pelicans.

Ironically, they’re fresh off a win over the Jazz, the team that’s dealt the Pelicans two of their last three losses. In that win, the Bucks rested Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Even without their two All-Stars, the rest of the team still had enough ammo to win over Utah.

That’s the scary thing about Milwaukee. They’re a team built on continuity. The core of the team has remained the same since their championship run in 2021. Because of that, their familiarity with the system and with each other has allowed them to refine what they do. Their minor tweak, especially on the defensive end, has resulted in the Bucks turning into a defensive juggernaut this season. Even without their two All-Stars on the court, the rest of the team can rely on stonewalling their opponents and running their sets efficiently.

The Bucks are a team that’s secure with themselves. They’re not trying to prove anything in the regular season anymore. They’re mature enough to understand that the playoffs is where they can turn things up. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll take the Pelicans lightly. Antetokounmpo is set to lead the team against the Pelicans.

Storyline to watch out for

This is going to be a freak show. The two best athletes in the league go head-to-head for the first time this season.

Williamson is playing his best basketball in the NBA so far. He’s basically getting anything he wants with his unique blend of size, skill, and athleticism.

That being said, Williamson hasn’t faced another force of nature like Antetokounmpo much this season. If there’s one player that can give Williamson fits, it’s Antetokounmpo. He’s just as strong, if not stronger. He’s just as big, if not bigger. 

Antetokounmpo will be a true test for Williamson, especially on the defensive end. Can Williamson keep chugging along with someone like Antetokounmpo blocking his path?


The Bucks are still missing Middleton who is still working his way back from an offseason injury. The Pelicans on the other hand won’t have Brandon Ingram who is resting his toe injury. Those two losses kind of cancel each other out. Kind of.

Milwaukee has played most of the season without Middleton while the Pelicans are still looking for the ideal partner for Williamson from their pool of young wings. That might be the big difference between both teams. 

The Pelicans are still learning how to win consistently, especially when the variables aren’t going their way. The Bucks already know how to win, no matter what. That’s why even without Middleton, they still have a good chance to taking home the W in this game.