When and Where to Watch
Date: Wednesday, Mar. 27
Time: 5:30 AM IST
TV: Sony ESPN
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
Two of the top five hottest teams since the All-Star break clash in Milwaukee. Here are the biggest storylines heading into the second and final regular-season battle between these two teams:
Rockets red-hot since the break
Since the All-Star break, the Houston Rockets are the hottest team in the league.
They have won 14 of their 17 games (82.4% - 1st) including a nine-game winning streak. The streak included some signature wins against the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Their three losses since the break have come by a combined margin of just eight points.
In fact, they have been so dominant that the Rockets are the only team to rank in the top 5 in offensive (113.9 - 4th) and defensive (106.2 - 3rd) rating since the break.
Bucks' injury bug
The Milwaukee Bucks are the best team in the league with a record of 55-19.
For the season, they rank third in offensive rating (113.5) while being the defensive team (defensive rating - 104.4 - 1st) in the league.
In fact, even with their injuries in March, the Bucks still have the fourth-best record (12-5) in the league since the All-Star break.
They were blessed with good health at the beginning of the season but it's been a different story since the break. For this game, the Bucks have five key rotation players that are set to miss this game - Malcolm Brogdon (Foot), Nikola Mirotic (Thumb), Pau Gasol (Ankle), Donte DiVincenzo (Heel), and Tony Snell (Ankle).
Prior to this game, the trio of Mirotic (30), Gasol (45) and DiVincenzo (47) had missed a considerable number of games this season.
Mirotic, Gasol and Brogdon are set to return only after April 10th.
Through 67 games, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a model of consistency, averaging career-highs of 27.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on 58.2% shooting. He leads the league in ESPN's PER (Player Efficiency Rating) - 30.80 and tops the rankings in NBA.com/stats' PIE (Player Impact Estimate) rating - 21.6.
Reigning MVP James Harden isn't far behind. He ranks second in each of the categories - ESPN's PER (30.44) and NBA.com/stats' PIE (19.8). The Beard leads the league in scoring with a career-high average of 36.4 points through 70 games.
In recent years, MVP candidates facing off against each other in the second half of the season has promised an entertaining contest.
In 2014, Kevin Durant and LeBron James put on a show in Miami. A couple of seasons ago, James Harden and Russell Westbrook dueled it out in Houston.
Given the Bucks' shorthanded roster and the form that Harden is in (averaging 44.3 points on 50.0% shooting over the last four games), this showdown between MVP candidates is poised to be a thrilling contest.