Welcome back to Last 10, Next 10, a feature we plan on posting over the course of the Milwaukee Bucks’ regular season and (hopefully) lengthy playoff run. With 82 games, this should run eight times before the postseason comes around, where we’ll review the team’s last 10 games and the next 10 games. The goal is that this approach helps us better digest the slog of the NBA calendar. In case you missed out, the first entry from November is here, and the second entry from earlier in December is here. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are from basketball-reference.com, as of Sunday, December 22.
Bucks’ Season To-Date
Record: 26-4 (1st in Eastern Conference, 1st in NBA)
Offensive Rating: 114.6 (3rd in NBA)
Defensive Rating: 102.2 (1st in NBA)
Simple Rating System: 12.20 (1st in NBA)
Bucks’ Last 10
7 home games, 3 away games
5 Eastern Conference matchups, 2 division matchups
Combined opponent W/L: 128-168 (0.432 win%)
- Opp. W/L (Eastern Conference): 45-103 (0.304 win%)
- Opp. W/L (Western Conference): 83-65 (0.561 win%)
GIF of the Bucks’ Last 10:
In all honesty, there’s only so much that can be said about Giannis. The league is driven by stars, and at any given point there is one who rises even above that elite company. A star among stars, an alpha among alphas. Giannis is not just the league’s reigning MVP, or the favorite to claim the honor this season, or the best player on the best team. He is, at this moment, on his way to universal recognition that he is the best in the entire sport.
Before him, it was LeBron James. LeBron James, who is 34 years old and still performing near the peak of his powers, has been the league’s best for a long time. He has faced challengers along the way, but LeBron has performed at such a level that he has entered the “Greatest Of All Time” conversation.
Giannis just turned 25 and is dominating the league. What will the conversation be around him in ten years? And what heights will he take the Bucks to along the way?
This first section could focus exclusively on Giannis, but his teammates deserve recognition. Brook Lopez continues to be ice-cold from deep (shooting 38.5% from the field, 29.6% from the arc), but he has been phenomenal on defense and may become a dark horse candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Brook’s defensive impact has always been more important than his offensive spacing (which is important!), so once his shot starts falling (like they did against the Knicks)...watch out. Khris Middleton has been steady, George Hill has been phenomenal during the absence of Eric Bledsoe (expected to last another week or two, making him a little baby though). Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova, Wesley Matthews...everything is just working right now. The Milwaukee Bucks were excellent last year, and now they’re somehow better. This begins and ends with Giannis, but each and every member of the team has pushed Milwaukee to new heights.
Even the team’s overall performance in areas they had been “struggling” has taken a turn for the better. Per NBA.com/stats, the Bucks rank second in three-point percentage over their last 10 games (39.6%). They’re now leading the way in effective FG% (56.3%), true shooting % (59.1%), and pace (105.30). The Bucks are not a buzzsaw, but a basketball inevitability.
Here’s how the vast majority of Bucks games go: they’re going to run, they’re going to score at the rim, they’re going to keep you from sealing off the rim, and unless you can shoot 39.5% from deep or better (average 3P% allowed in the Bucks’ 4 losses) while also keeping Milwaukee shooting 29.5% from deep or worse (average 3P% in the Bucks’ 4 losses)...you’re going to lose.
December 22 – vs. Indiana Pacers (20-9)
December 25 – @ Philadelphia 76ers (21-10)
December 27 – @ Atlanta Hawks (6-24)
December 28 – vs. Orlando Magic (12-17)
December 30 – @ Chicago Bulls (12-19)
January 1 – vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (10-18)
January 4 – vs. San Antonio Spurs (11-17)
January 6 – @ San Antonio Spurs (11-17)
January 8 – @ Golden State Warriors (6-24)
January 10 – @ Sacramento Kings (12-17)
January 11 – @ Portland Trail Blazers (14-16)
4 home games, 7 away games
5 Eastern Conference matchups, 2 division matchups
Combined opponent W/L: 124-171 (0.420 win%)
GIF of the Bucks’ Next 10:
MIlwaukee’s next two contests are against teams stuck in the middle of the playoff picture; Indiana (on a SEGABABA) and Philadelphia are not without their flaws, but they’re dangerous and will show up to play against the East-leading Bucks. After that Christmas Day game, though, Milwaukee will need to actively avoid the dangers of going on auto-pilot. Orlando (on a SEGABABA) and Minnesota, sure, they’ll put up a good fight...but the rest of the slate? Yeesh.
But as we saw with the Lakers last Thursday, extensive travel can take a great team out of its rhythm. The Warriors and Spurs may not be who they used to be anymore, but road games are simply harder than home games. And with the (hopefully, at least) anticipated presence of Damian Lillard, that January 11 game in Portland to cap the Western Conference road trip is a tall order. Additionally, Eric Bledsoe’s eventual reintegration into the starting lineup will force changes to the rotation, and even familiar changes are still adjustments that raise the opportunity for mistakes and reduce the margin for error.
...that’s it. That’s all of the challenges I can conjure up. Travel and playing time allocation. Maybe load management, if the team decides that Giannis or Khris or George or anybody needs a game or two off. There’s nothing else to really complain about. The Bucks are just that good right now; the most dangerous opponent that can threaten them is themselves. What an age we live in.