Emmanuel Mudiay is already showing signs of being the playmaker the Denver Nuggets believed they were getting when they took a chance on him in the draft.
With counterpart Michael Carter-Williams likely sidelined for the Milwaukee Bucks, the rookie point guard will try to build on his best performance so far Wednesday night when the Nuggets look to continue their home dominance in this series.
Denver thought highly enough of Mudiay to take him seventh overall even though he opted to forgo college and play in the Chinese Basketball Association in 2014-15.
After he totaled 32 points in his first two NBA games, Mudiay averaged just 9.8 while shooting 14 of 54 (25.9 percent) over his next four. He ended that slump Monday with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks in a 108-104 win over Portland.
Mudiay hit two big free throws in the closing seconds before blocking Damian Lillard's layup attempt to help Denver avoid its first 0-3 start at home since 2002-03.
"When I'm aggressive and not playing like a robot, good things happen for me and my teammates," he said. "If we continue to play team basketball and everybody doing our job, we're going to be fine."
Mudiay may have to keep carrying the load with Joffrey Lauvergne (back), Wilson Chandler (hip) and Jusuf Nurkic (knee) out, while backup Jameer Nelson is questionable because of a lower back ailment.
The Bucks, meanwhile, have their own injury issue with Carter-Williams, the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year who has been sidelined four games with a sprained ankle. His absence has left Tyler Ennis, Jerryd Bayless and Greivis Vasquez to share ballhandling duties.
Greg Monroe finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds in Tuesday's 99-83 loss to Boston, while Giannis Antetokounmpo contributed 16 as the Bucks' four-game winning streak ended.
"We're not as good as we think we are, so we have to keep working," coach Jason Kidd said.
Milwaukee has averaged 91.8 points and shot 42.4 percent over its last four, but Antetokounmpo has been a bright spot with 18.9 points while hitting 55.7 percent. He had 19 points and 11 rebounds in a 106-95 loss March 3 in the most recent meeting at Denver.
While with Detroit, Monroe gave Denver a tough time Feb. 6 when he had 21 points and 21 boards.
The Bucks (4-4) now open a stretch with four of five coming on the road at a venue where they haven't had much success. They've dropped 36 of 44 all-time at Denver and will try to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat that would match their longest skid there.
Milwaukee hasn't allowed 100 points in five games since giving up an average of 115.3 over its first three, but has surrendered 109.3 in its last three at Pepsi Center.
Danilo Gallinari, averaging a team-high 16.9 points, led the Nuggets (3-4) with 26 in March. He'll try to get back on track after scoring six on 2-of-10 shooting against the Trail Blazers.
After scoring eight in 23 minutes Tuesday, Milwaukee's Jabari Parker will not play in the second of back-to-back games as he continues to work his way back after tearing his ACL on Dec. 15. Shooting guard O.J. Mayo has yet to play because of a strained hamstring.