The Milwaukee Bucks will be looking to maintain the good mojo of the past week when they host DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings on Saturday night, though their recent history with Sacramento doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence. The Kings won both meetings a year ago with Cousins in street clothes, a pretty remarkable accomplishment when you consider they were just 2-13 sans Cousins against the rest of the league.
As of last Monday, the New Bucks looked like the Old Bucks, which meant Jason Kidd was hopeless, Jabari Parker wasn’t making the leap and All (But Giannis) Was Lost.
But things change quickly for NBA teams — and fans — in the month of November, and less than a week later the New Bucks suddenly look shiny and new and fun. A high-scoring road win over the struggling Pelicans was encouraging if not super impressive, and a high-flying win over the Pacers on Thursday reinforced that the young Bucks might be figuring a few things out. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been spectacular all season (24 ppg! 9 rpg! 6.4 apg! 2.0 bpg!), Jabari just hit a career-best four triples and 27 points against the Pacers, and Kidd is getting excellent rotation minutes from Greg Monroe, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell to name a few. I’m not sure I buy into the notion of their offense sustaining its current 10th ranking, but dream the impossible dream, eh?
Speaking of impossible, Giannis’ production thus far would seem to qualify as such for mere mortals. And there’s nothing hollow about them, either — the Bucks have been excellent with Giannis on the court thus far, especially when you consider how much they fall off a cliff when Giannis is resting:
Bucks with Giannis 110.3 ORTG / 102.6 DRTG / +7.7 Net— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) November 4, 2016
Bucks w/o Giannis: 90.7 ORTG / 112.7 DRTG / -22.0 Net pic.twitter.com/AaEmKOtEAW
Among the lineups succeeding of late is the starting combination of Giannis, Jabari, Snell, Matthew Dellavedova, and Miles Plumlee. While it’s still early in the season to be looking at lineup data, that group has outscored opponents by around 10 points/100 possessions in 46 minutes thus far.
Sacramento lands in Milwaukee having lost the first three games of their current road trip, dropping them to 2-4 overall and pushing DeMarcus Cousins to the brink of sanity yet again.
While new coach Dave Joerger built a strong defensive rep in Memphis, the Kings have been searching for an identity thus far, ranking 20th in defense — virtually tied with the Bucks — and slightly below average offensively. Then again, being not terrible offensively is pretty impressive when you consider the only real point guard the Kings have had on the roster is Ty Lawson. Darren Collison returns next week from an eight-game suspension for a domestic violence conviction, and until then Sacramento will continue to make do with former Buck Garrett Temple deputizing as their backup point guard. And yes, Garrett Temple is definitely not a point guard.
While Cousins’ 28 points per game understandably garner most of the headlines, Rudy Gay is offering him plenty of help, posting 22.5 points on 60% true shooting thus far. After that...well, did we mention Rudy Gay is offering Boogie help? No other player on the roster is scoring in double-digits.