MILWAUKEE — After the Milwaukee Bucks opened the season with games against Boston and Cleveland, it would be easy to look at a Saturday night date with the Portland Trail Blazers as a bit of relief for the Bucks.
Head coach Jason Kidd, however, is quick to offer a dose of reality.
“It’s the NBA,” Kidd said. “There are no easy wins in this league. You can get beat on any given night. We started with Boston and Cleveland, now we have to face Portland. We’ve got a tough task, no matter who we’re playing.”
That task will be especially tough if the Bucks continue to make Giannis Antetokounmpo carry the offensive load. Last year’s Most Improved Player award winner had another big night Friday with his second 30-point game of the season while flirting with a triple-double.
But the rest of Milwaukee’s roster managed to shoot a paltry 38 percent from the field.
“Giannis scored a lot of points,” Kidd said, “but he needs his teammates to make some open shots and take the pressure off him.”
Getting Khris Middleton going would be a step in the right direction. Middleton struggled again, missing all five of his 3-point shots and finishing with eight points. He went 6 of 17 in the opener, including 1 of 5 from distance, but Kidd isn’t ready to sound an alarm just yet.
“You have slow starts, you have quick starts, but it’s how you finish the marathon,” he said. “Right now, we’re not going to panic about Khris not making shots. He’s going to make shots. That’s who he is.”
Milwaukee will also need to find a way to shore up its defense if it wants to stop Portland, which is averaging 119.0 points through its first two games this season.
Portland opened the season with a rout of Phoenix and followed that up Friday with an 18-point victory at Indiana.
CJ McCollum returned from a one-game suspension, restoring Portland’s dangerous 1-2 punch of McCollum and Damian Lillard.
But while that duo attracts most of the attention, forward Al-Farouq Aminu has been making a big impact on the defensive end, averaging 12.0 rebounds. He scored 16 on Friday night on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor.
“He’s the glue,” McCollum said. “He’s awesome. He does a lot of the dirty work, doesn’t get a lot of credit. He rebounds, he plays defense, he switches on the centers, he makes corner 3s for us. If we can get him to play like that all season, we’ll be special.”
Portland’s offense gets most of the attention, but the Trail Blazers have been a pretty good defensive squad so far, holding opponents to an average of 86.0 points on 31.5 percent shooting.
“We’ve had a lot of fun actually playing defense,” Lillard said. “We see what it can do for us.”
The Bucks swept the series against Portland last season. The Blazers haven’t won in Milwaukee since Nov. 20, 2013, but are 4-4 in the last eight meetings overall.