So what's going on with the Milwaukee Bucks these days, eh?
Milwaukee's post-trade, post-all-star break losing streak reached four games on Wednesday night in Oakland, and while they showed plenty of spunk in hanging with the Warriors for three-plus quarters, they ultimately lost thanks to yet another sloppy performance offensively. An ugly 23 turnovers ruined any chance the Bucks might have had to pull out an upset against Steve Kerr's crew, as Milwaukee piled up more turnovers than assists (17) for the third time in eight games. That had happened just twice in 53 games before the all-star break, indicative of the Bucks' recent offensive struggles. Check out their pre- and post-break splits via NBA.com:
More turnovers, fewer assists and a major dip in shooting efficiency are all likely somewhat interrelated, as the Bucks' revised rotation has yet to click in any consistent way over the past two weeks. Some of that is a long-term concern -- Michael Carter-Williams' shooting is unlikely to ever come close to Brandon Knight's (or for that matter even the average NBA point guard). But he's not single-handedly responsible for everyone else missing open jump shots, which provides some reason for optimism that mean reversion will at some point work in the Bucks' favor again. Consider that the Bucks have hit under 32% of their threes since the break after burying 38% of their triple attempts through 53 games, all while seeing their raw attempts fall by around two triples per game. On the plus side, the roster re-shuffle has yet to manifest itself in any sort of defensive crisis, and it's on the defensive end where this team has been winning games all season. It's difficult to be terrible for very long when you have a top-five defense, a fact that has probably been overlooked in all the recent doom and gloom.
With their 0-4 road trip now in the books, Milwaukee has seen its hold on the sixth spot in the East loosened, though Washington's struggles have also kept the fifth spot just two games out. On the down side, the Bucks are now just 4.5 games up on the seventh seeded Heat and five up on the eighth seeded Hornets, with Indiana (-5.5 games) and Brooklyn (-6.0 games) lurking not too far behind. Via NBA.com:
For what it's worth, the Bucks are still calculated as a 98.5% lock to make the playoffs by ESPN's playoff odds estimation, but you'd be forgiven for starting to feel a little queasy. After all, the current Bucks team is somewhat different from the one that raced into the all-star break winners of seven of their last eight games, and while I'd expect that they'll start to pull things together at some point in the near future, the end result remains difficult to pin down. Besides, Bucks fans aren't entirely foreign to bizarre collapses -- in 2002, George Karl's 32-22 Bucks slumped to a 9-19 finish that saw them crash out of the playoffs on the last day of the season.
Thankfully this isn't 2002. The eighth seeded Pacers won 42 games that year, a number that seems rather ambitious this considering year that the current seven and eight seeds are six and seven games under .500, respectively. So the Bucks still have a rather healthy margin of error with 21 games left, and it's also not as if we're talking about the collapse of the Big Three-era Bucks here. This team has already gone way beyond what anyone expected, though some wins on their forthcoming homestand would allow everyone to sleep better at night. That starts Saturday night when they host the Wizards, who have had their own struggles in recent weeks and might otherwise be ripe to be overtaken in the fifth seed.