|Bucks happy to be home against Blazers|
The Milwaukee Bucks have made themselves at home during their early road-heavy schedule, so much so that one has to wonder if the team is anxious to return to Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks look to continue their run of dominance on Thursday when they open a four-game homestand against the Portland Trail Blazers, who are headed in the other direction with losses in eight of their last 10 contests.
Milwaukee, which has won a season-high five in a row overall and eight of 10 on the road, has played a league-low four home games in 2019-20.
"We feel like we've been out for a long time, so it's going to be great to be home," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Our fans and the arena is so great in Milwaukee and the energy we get from them. We'll need it (Thursday night)."
Giannis Antetokounmpo has made himself at home regardless of venue.
The reigning NBA Most Valuable Player collected 33 points and 11 rebounds to pace Milwaukee to a 135-127 victory at Atlanta on Wednesday. Antetokounmpo has recorded 30-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in eight of his past nine contests, and he has 14 consecutive double-doubles to start the season.
Eric Bledsoe helped keep the Hawks at bay by scoring 17 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter.
"You saw the first three quarters, I was horrible," Bledsoe said on Fox Sports Wisconsin. "I was turning the ball over left and right. Missing shots, just felt like I couldn't get it right.
"So I just stayed calm. Stuck with what I've been preparing for and try to finish the game strong."
While the Bucks are ascending in the standings, the Trail Blazers are plummeting after dropping a 115-104 decision at New Orleans on Tuesday. The loss spoiled the debut of Carmelo Anthony and sent Portland to a 1-2 mark on its six-game road trip.
"It felt great just to be back into the flow of the game, be back on the court, be back to where I think I belong," the 35-year-old Anthony said after making just 4 of 14 shots during his 10-point performance.
"As far as conditioning, though, I felt absolutely great out there. There was minor things, but it was more of the flow of things and getting used to how the team plays and sets and getting used to the guys on the team."
Damian Lillard, who averages a team-best 28.6 points and 7.1 assists, will miss his second consecutive game due to back spasms on Thursday. The four-time All-Star has been nursing a balky back since Portland's 114-106 home loss to Toronto on Nov. 13, per Blazers reporter Casey Holdahl.
Fellow guard Anfernee Simons (left ankle), who replaced Lillard in the lineup, and center Hassan Whiteside (right hip) are considered questionable to face Milwaukee.
The Trail Blazers made news off the court on Wednesday by waiving six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, who did not play a game for the team this season while attempting to recover from surgery on his left foot. The 39-year-old veteran will continue his rehabilitation in Portland while discussing a coaching job with the team.
--Field Level Media