Welcome to the Brew Hoop Neighborhood Watch. The NBA is a vibrant community, and while the Milwaukee Bucks are our preferred resident, we still want to be in touch with our neighbors around the league. After all, that’s what good neighbors are for. Today, we circle back to the Bucks’ counterparts at the top of the Eastern Conference and check in at the halfway point of the season.
The Efficiency Landscape. What Jumps Out? pic.twitter.com/1pk4bJvGsS— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) January 11, 2019
Current Bucks Rankings
Record: 29-12 (2nd in East)
Offensive Rating: 114.0 (4th in NBA)
Defensive Rating: 105.2 (2nd in NBA)
Strength of Schedule Rating: -0.82 (24th in NBA)
Remaining Strength of Schedule: 0.472 (29th in NBA)
From the Mag: Courting Kawhi: Can the Raptors sell their star on a future in Toronto? https://t.co/R72zY1BeB0— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) January 8, 2019
But just like with Milwaukee, everything in Toronto starts with their star, Kawhi Leonard. And Raptors fans know it, and they’re doing their part to sell The Klaw on The North, including detailing the city’s...art scene!
On the court, Toronto has continued its steady march to the top of the standings. They rank in the top-10 in both offensive and defensive rating, and even missing Jonas Valanciunas to a thumb injury, the Raptors’ efforts have been driven by the substantial improvements of do-it-all forward Pascal Siakam.
There’s sticking around longer than expected, and then there’s the Indiana Pacers, who were thought to be a regression candidate and just happen to be flat-out good. They’re led by their top-end defense...which as it turns out may be slipping.
The Pacers are a better defensive team than they’ve been the last seven games, and that will likely prove out once they get some rest and Myles Turner gets healthy.
To defend at the level they were through the first 34 games against the depth and versatility of the Torontos and the Bostons; however, they have some cleaning up and figuring out to do — even then.
Adding further concern to the mix is actively questioning whether Turner and sixth man extraordinaire Domantas Sabonis could – or perhaps even should – play together. The recipe has clearly worked out so far, but teams will need to leverage their best lineups in the postseason. Can the Pacers find a lineup that includes their two best bigs?
For a team in the driver’s seat for a top-4 playoff seed, things certainly seem to be tenuous in Philly. First things first, the team’s depth is starting to cause headaches. After Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons, there’s a drop-off that threatens this squad’s long-term outlook, no matter how good JJ Redick and Wilson Chandler can be.
Some write off the bench issues, noting that the Sixers have enough top-line talent to beat anyone in the East once the rotations tighten up in the playoffs. While this might hold some truth on face value, there are still some major flaws with that thought process. Although the rotations typically shrink in the playoffs, even if each team was to shrink its rotation all the way down to eight players, the Sixers still find themselves giving minutes to a handful of below average players, especially compared to who their opponents could bring off the bench.
Speaking of headaches, hi Jimmy Butler! Butler recently had a go at head coach Brett Brown during a film session, and while on some level you might forgive “Jimmy being Jimmy,” it doesn’t bode well that Butler is making waves after forcing his way out of Minnesota...which he arrived in after making waves to force his way out of Chicago. Some Sixer fans are lamenting the addition, but others advocate a more measured approach. Which one is the right mindset?
T.J. McConnell sees you sprinting to pick up a fallen teammate, Tony Snell, and he does you one better.
TJ literally draggin Jimmy pic.twitter.com/ocmMIbHwFi— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) January 12, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2018-19 Boston Celtics in two tweets:
I think the Celtics have a lot of issues. But everything is still fixable and they aren’t as bad off as it seems.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) January 13, 2019
That said, we’ve been having this conversation for a couple of months. Maybe this just is how it is and the season won’t live up to the hype it had coming in.
What is Kyrie Irving so upset about? Well...
Kyrie didn’t look happy after this final play in the Celtics’ loss. pic.twitter.com/lPnsjjfg1G— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2019
That’s fine, bad plays happen and teammates get animated when discussing it. It’s not like they were shoving and pushi-
Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris had to get separated during a timeout...— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 11, 2019
(via ahubbtho/IG) pic.twitter.com/1EyBZyzvUn
Everything is fine, though. Really. This isn’t a death knell for the storied Celtics franchise; losing two games in a row isn’t the end of the world. There’s still more than enough evidence that this bump in the road won’t slow Boston down during the home stretch.
We’ve known since last year’s playoffs that this team was going to be deep and talented. Fitting it all together has been a bigger challenge than most of us anticipated, but it seems like Stevens is well on his way to figuring it all out.
When someone needs to sit for injuries or rest, there’s always someone willing and able to step into a bigger role. The tricky part is finding enough touches and shots when everyone is healthy and available.
Again, it comes back to trust. Players making the extra pass because they trust their teammates to do the same for them. As coaches like to say, the ball finds good energy.