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Bucks host Warriors in potential NBA Finals preview

The defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks will welcome the Golden State Warriors to Fiserv Forum on Thursday night for a highly-anticipated matchup featuring two of the NBA’s top three title favorites.

The two teams will meet for the first time this season, with a second and final meeting scheduled for March 12th in San Francisco.

The Bucks begin a stretch of eight of ten games that will take place at home as they return from a three-game road trip. The Warriors, on the other hand, will play their second of a four-game road trip.

Bucks have lost four of five

Following a six-game win streak, the Bucks have now lost four of their last five. They sit at 26-17 on the season, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference, and three games behind Chicago for first.

The Bucks’ last two games both came on the road against the Charlotte Hornets where they lost 114-106 and 103-99, respectively. Star guard Khris Middleton spoke about his team’s struggles after their most recent loss.

“You are definitely concerned anytime you lose four out of five,” he said. “And you never want to lose two in a row. You understand what the circumstances are (with players being out) and you never want to use that as an excuse. We understand what we’re going through and everybody is going through. But we still have to go out there and compete.”

Warriors have lost three of four

The Warriors are working through some struggles of their own, having gone 1-3 over their last four games. At 30-10, they have fallen a game back of the Phoenix Suns for first in the Western Conference.

The return of star guard Klay Thompson has been one of the top stories in the NBA this week. After missing nearly a thousand days due to multiple injuries, the 31-year-old has suited up for Golden State in each of the team’s last two games. He has played a combined 40 minutes in those games and has put up a combined 31 points on 38.5% shooting from distance.

The second of those two games came against the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies who proved to be too much for the Warriors. Golden State took a lead into the fourth quarter but it was Ja Morant and the Grizzlies who pulled away late for a tenth-straight win.

“It was a great game. Two of the best teams in the league. They’re the hottest team in the league, and we gave ourselves a chance, but we didn’t play well enough to win,” said head coach Steve Kerr.

Players to watch

Giannis Antetokounmpo is having another MVP-calibre season, averaging 28.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals per game on 54.1% shooting.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Props:

Points: 30.5 (Over: 2.00 | Under: 1.86)

Rebounds: 11.5 (Over: 1.95 | Under: 1.86)

Assists: 6.5 (Over: 1.74 | Under: 2.10)

Blocks: 1.5 (Over: 2.85 | Under: 1.39)

Threes-made: 1.5 (Over: 2.90 | Under: 1.40)

Points + Rebounds + Assists: 48.5 (Over: 1.86 | Under: 1.90)

Stephen Curry has the league’s best MVP odds at 2.50. He has recorded 26.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game on 42.0% shooting, 38.4% from three and 91.8% from the free throw line.

Stephen Curry Props:

Points: 26.5 (Over: 1.95 | Under: 1.86)

Rebounds: 5.5 (Over: 1.74 | Under: 2.05)

Assists: 5.5 (Over: 1.71 | Under: 2.10)

Blocks: 0.5 (Over: 2.85 | Under: 1.40)

Threes-made: 4.5 (Over: 2.15 | Under: 1.68)

Points + Rebounds + Assists: 37.5 (Over: 1.86 | Under: 1.95)

Player Prop Special: 35+ points, 8+ rebounds, 8+ assists: 23.00

Game Odds

The Bucks are listed as slim one-point favorites.

Spread: Warriors (+1) 1.88 | Bucks (-1) 1.97

Money Line: Warriors 2.00 | Bucks 1.90

Over/Under: Over (224.5) 1.92 | Under (224.5) 1.92

Player Prop Special: 35+ points, 14+ rebounds, 10+ assists: 23.00

Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 pm ET.