It seems the Milwaukee Bucks have discovered something. Or perhaps "rediscovered" is the correct term. As it turns out, Milwaukee is home to last year's 3rd Team All-NBA Center. What's more, he's apparently still a serviceable player! This fine stroke of luck has already paid dividends in the form of a 3-1 record over the last 4 games, a stretch which included matchups with Orlando and Miami.
It would be easy for me to toss in a bullet under the "What's Working" heading detailing how lucky Milwaukee has been to avoid some of the star players they should have faced in the past few games, but I'm tired of saying it and frankly, it doesn't matter. Such a caveat does nothing but tear down the fledgling confidence Bucks fans can feel warming their insides, a warmth I fear to extinguish given the weather currently wreaking havoc in the midwest. The ball bounces both ways in the NBA, and I'm content to consider these breaks as karma coming back around after Bogut's injury last year, paying down it's karma-debt to only 135,000 karma-points. It's okay, we can wait.
Meanwhile, the Bucks' next three opponents are currently sporting a combined 55-15 record. Yikes. Make that 145,000, karma.
Getting Good Shots: The average NBA team attempts about 22 shots at the rim and 13 shots within 10 feet of the rim each game. Over their past 3 games, the Bucks have averaged almost 25 shots at the rim and 16 shots with 10 feet per game. Granted, they still didn't make said shots with much consistency, but it's a start. Shot selection was excellent in the game against Houston, in which Milwaukee attempted 30 shots at the rim and 18 shots within 10 feet. With Bogut looking damn-near unstoppable near the basket, Milwaukee was totally content to get him the ball there time after time. It wasn't just Bogut, though: John Salmons attempted 5 shots at the rim (finally!) while Jennings and Ilyasova put up 4 each in close. Milwaukee is still the worst shooting team in the NBA by a wide margin, so getting good, high-percentage shots is key.
Finding the Open Man: Milwaukee isn't an exceptional team when it comes to assist rates and totals, being pretty close to the NBA average in the percentage of made shot being assisted. Their past three games, however, have seen Milwaukee do a better job of finding each other for open shots. Last week, over 80% of Milwaukee's made shots from at least 16 feet were assisted. It's not outlandish to assume it's at least partially thanks to guys making an extra pass or two to find teammates with open looks.
Preventing Fast Breaks: The Bucks are still one of the best teams in the NBA when it comes to taking care of the ball, but fast breaks have hurt on occasion. As anyone who watched the game against Miami remembers, a pair of early turnovers led to a pair of monstrous slams by LeBron James. A handful of sloppy turnovers against the Rockets (Milwaukee had an abnormally high 17.7 TOR in that game) allowed Houston to get out and run a few times, which ended up keeping the game closer than it probably should have been. In all, Milwaukee gave up 10, 10, and 14 fast break points in last week's games. The Miami plays can be forgiven, considering the current Heat roster might be the best fast-breaking team ever assembled, but when you let an undermanned Houston team without it's starting PG hang around largely thanks to a few lost balls, it's an issue.