Breaking down the Bucks 2017-18 schedule

MILWAUKEE — The NBA released its full schedule of games Monday night, highlighted by some key dates for the Milwaukee Bucks.

While the Bucks will have fewer nationally televised games in the 2017-18 season than in past years (16, down from 20 the past two seasons), they’ll still be part of some marquee matchups. That includes games on Halloween (vs Thunder), New Year’s Day (@ Raptors), Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 4 @ Nets), St. Patrick’s Day (vs Hawks), and Easter (@ Nuggets).

Milwaukee’s schedule should be a little less taxing, with 14 back-to-back games, down from 17 last season.

The full schedule can be found here.

Key Matchups
Oct. 18 @ Boston Celtics
The Bucks have opened the season at home each of the past two seasons, so it’s their turn to open on the road in 2017-18. Milwaukee went 1-2 against Boston last season, finishing the regular season with a 112-94 loss at the TD Garden.

Oct. 20 vs Cleveland Cavaliers
One of the Bucks’ top opponents comes at the start of the schedule, with LeBron James and company heading to the BMO Harris Bradley Center to hand Milwaukee another early test. It remains to be seen if Kyrie Irving will be part of that roster.

Jan. 1 @ Toronto Raptors
The Bucks will have to wait until New Year’s Day to get a measure of revenge against the team that knocked them out of the first round of last year’s playoffs. It could also help decide what direction Milwaukee heads with the All Star break slated for mid-February.

Return to The MECCA?
For months, the Bucks have been teasing a return to the UW | Milwaukee Panther Arena, formerly known as The MECCA, where the team called home during its only championship in 1971. That year, the Bucks beat the Washington Bullets for the championship, so it’s possible the highly-anticipated return could take place on either Nov. 20 or Feb. 27 when the Washington Wizards are scheduled to visit Milwaukee.

Offense backs career-best start for Davies in win over Nationals

WASHINGTON — The Milwaukee Brewers went from playing one of the league’s worst teams to one of the league’s best, but that didn’t stop them from beating the Washington Nationals 8-0 Tuesday night behind a strong start from Zach Davies.

Davies went 7.2 innings, giving up just three hits while striking out seven. It’s the deepest into a game he’s gone in his career, but just the third time he’s gone at least seven innings this season — though all three have come in the last month.

“He was really good in [his last start] and this was more of the same,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Davies’ most recent performance. “His off-speed the last two games has been working about as good as it can and all four pitches he’s using them very effectively…two in a row really good ones for Zach.”

The win kept pace with the Chicago Cubs, who beat the Chicago White Sox earlier in the day. Milwaukee now regains sole possession of first place in the National League Central after losing seven of the previous eight games and watching a 5 ½ game lead disappear in less than two weeks.

“At this time for us, it’s time to get going,” Davies said. “It’s time for us to separate ourselves and get back to the way we were playing in the first half. Especially making a statement against a good team like [the Nationals], it’s to say that we’re here to stay.”

But Davies didn’t get the win on his own. The Milwaukee offense produced a trio of home runs (Travis Shaw in the fourth inning, and Eric Thames and Manny Piña in the fifth inning) on the way to the victory.  That success might have been a product of a lineup change after Counsell moved Thames to fifth in the batting order. He had previously only batted second or third.

Jimmy Nelson will try to keep the momentum moving for Milwaukee when he gets the start opposite Gio Gonzalez on Wednesday night.

Packers use No. 33 pick on Washington CB Kevin King

PHILADELPHIA — Amid speculation the Green Bay Packers would trade down once again in the NFL Draft, they instead use the No. 33 overall pick to select Washington cornerback Kevin King.

King was an honorable mention All-Pac 12 member in 2016, starting all 14 games for the Huskies with 26 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, and two interceptions. He also had a career-high 13 passes defensed.

If King’s conference call with local reporters was any indication, King won’t have any lack of work ethic as a Packer. Instead of pouting about not being selected in the first round, King went to work.

“After last night, emotions were flying, I didn’t really know what to think,” King recalled. “All I can do is what I knew how to do. I went back to the hotel and I went and worked out. I ran on the treadmill for about an hour and I hit the weights.”

There were rumblings the Packers may use the first pick in round two of the draft to trade back with teams interested in King’s services. It was rumored Green Bay would select Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer if they did not move from the No. 33 pick.

King should make an immediate impact for the Green Bay defense. He was asked by reporters if he would have felt comfortable facing off with Julio Jones in the NFC Championship Game loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Packers to host DT Jean Francois on Wednesday

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers are set to host veteran free agent defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois on Wednesday, following visits with the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears.

Green Bay has already added three new players through free agency, but the impending four-game suspension of Letroy Guion has the Packers looking for depth heading into next season. Jean Francois is heading into his ninth NFL season, having played the last two years with the Washington Redskins. Jean Francois has experience playing in both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes.

Jean Francois was selected in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, recording 153 career tackles and 12 career sacks.

Regardless of whether or not Green Bay signs Jean Francois, the Packers have been planning to insert second-year defensive lineman Kenny Clark into that role. They’re hoping Clark can step in for Guion as a pass-rusher, but also act as a run-stuffer  after the 2015 departure of B.J. Raji.

Second half woes plague Bucks in loss to Wizards

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo was out of the lineup for the Milwaukee Bucks due to illness, and the Washington Wizards took advantage of his absence, coming back from a 12-point deficit to get a 107-101 win Sunday afternoon.

As has often been the case this year, Milwaukee started hot, holding a 31-24 lead after the first quarter. They built that up to a 12-point lead early in the second, leading 57-49 at halftime. But the final two quarters saw Milwaukee’s offense sputter, putting up 21 and 23 points, respectively.

Mirza Teletovic took Antetokounmpo’s place in the lineup, providing just five points of offense on 2-of-8 shooting. Jabari Parker and Malcolm Brogdon tried to pick up the slack, adding a combined 50 points on 18-of-36 shooting (50 percent).

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 26 points on 52.6 percent shooting. As a team, Washington struggled from the three-point line, converting on just 31.2 percent of their attempts (10-of-32).

Wisconsin, Penn State both miss College Football Playoff field

INDIANAPOLIS — As runner-up in the Big Ten Championship game, Wisconsin wasn’t expected to make the College Football Playoff field, but Sunday’s release also omitted Big Ten champion Penn State.

The Top Six (Top Four make CFP)

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio State
  4. Washington
  5. Penn State
  6. Michigan

After a 42-35 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, Clemson rose to No. 2 in the committee’s eyes, while Ohio State dropped to No. 3, having not played a conference championship game.

After missing out on the playoff field, Wisconsin will find out its postseason bowl game and opponent at 1:30 p.m. central time.