Fri, 02 Jun 2023

Admiration for East-leading Bucks while Jazz ready to face them

Field Level Media
24 Mar 2023, 09:05 GMT+10

Win or lose Friday night in Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz's game against the Milwaukee Bucks could be a valuable learning experience for the young squad.

At least that's the attitude one of Jazz coach Will Hardy's coaching mentors has about the Bucks.

After his team lost to Milwaukee 130-94 on Wednesday night, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich spoke glowingly about Giannis Antetokounmpo and company.

"They've got their culture down," Popovich said. "They're confident. They know they can do it if they play the right way, which they do most of the time. ... I'd love to be able to play them every night. It would be great for our young kids to see how it gets done and how mistakes are made and what's important."

The Jazz (35-37) did the Bucks (52-20) a favor last weekend by beating the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee enters this game 2 1/2 games ahead of the Celtics in the race to finish atop the Eastern Conference standings.

"I've never in my career believed in seeding, but we're No. 1 right now, we should just take it," Antetokounmpo said. "We should just keep on building good habits, take it and maybe it helps us in a playoff run."

Milwaukee has a tough road with back-to-back games against Utah on Friday and then the West's top seed, the Denver Nuggets, on Saturday night. The Bucks have won 23 of their past 26 games.

Utah had won four of five before falling apart in a 127-115 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

"We looked a step slow, kind of on everything defensively tonight," Hardy said afterward.

The Jazz remain in contention for one of the tightly contested postseason spots in the West.

Friday's game will mark a homecoming for former Jazz fan favorite Joe Ingles, who joined the Bucks this season after being traded from Utah to Portland at the trade deadline a year ago.

This will be the first real game in Utah as a visitor for Ingles in his old stomping grounds, where the shooting guard played the first eight seasons of his NBA career. He couldn't play for Portland last season after injuring his knee.

"It will be weird and different," Ingles told the KSL Sports Zone. "I've been in the away locker room once with the (Los Angeles) Clippers when I first came for a preseason game in 2014. There will be a lot of different emotions."

Ingles, who is averaging 7.3 points, 3.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds in a reserve role for Milwaukee this season, likes where he landed.

"The organization's been great," Ingles said. "The players have been great from day one. As dark as it looked for a little while, it has been a really good spot for us. On court (it) is starting to feel like it's working out."

The status of the Jazz's leading scorer, Lauri Markkanen (25.7 ppg), is up in the air. He tweaked his previously injured left wrist in a fall during the loss Wednesday. X-rays were negative, but the pain remains.

"It's been just getting hit for a month," said Markkanen, who scored 40 points in the Portland loss. "So just seeing what you can play through, and even though my wrists hurt, I can do other things. Once you get going you don't really think about it, but then, obviously, dead balls and stuff. It happened again, but, I mean, we'll see."

--Field Level Media

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