The Bucks sure know how to make things stressful, eh? It was never going to be as simple as “show up and blow your opponents off the court”, but I’m not sure anyone saw the grinding morass that was almost the entirety of yesterday’s Game 1 against the Boston Celtics coming.
As frustrating as coming far short of expectations in that way was, there were still moments of positivity to glean from the muck. Khris Middleton had himself some moments, Eric Bledsoe wasn’t a complete disaster, and the likes of George Hill and Nikola Mirotic showed up in crucial bench minutes. Still, an off night from Giannis Antetokounmpo is a cause for real concern and will make things impossible for Milwaukee if it continues.
Even with the series underway, there’s plenty of possible adjustments to be made that could swing things in either direction. In lieu of that, we’ve got a deep-dive tactical preview of the series from Zach Lowe, acknowledgement that this year’s Bucks team is as unlike last year’s iteration as possible, and, of course, Pat Connaughton weight lifting stories.
Zach Lowe went ahead and gave the Bucks-Boston series the Zach Lowe Treatment with an especial focus on what the Celtics may try to derail Giannis Antetokunmpo in particular.
Much of the strategy revolves around the vaunted defensive ability of Al Horford, though there are questions just how well Horford would hold up over the course of 35-40 minutes game after game. Things seemed to work like a charm for much of Game 1, though with the sheer number of possessions that ended with Giannis forcing a shot with four defenders around him in the paint, I’m curious if there is room to break such an approach.
Giannis has grown not only as a scorer but as a reliable playmaker. If the strategies of yesteryear involving putting as much pressure on Antetokounmpo as possible are to be used again, it is up to Giannis and those surrounding him to make opponents pay for over-committing to one player.
Thought I’d toss this one in there if only to prepare you guys for the deluge of takezzz that are coming Milwaukee’s way. Much of the opprobrium will be deserved, but it’ll be a rude return to the days of old for at least 48 hours as the Bucks look to pick up the pieces.
In rematch, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks and Kyrie Irving’s Celtics are both different beasts (Washington Post)
I’m not sure if people are talking enough about how radically different this Bucks team is from last year’s playoffs. Sure, there’s the improved scheme, the superstar that’s closer to perfection with every passing day, etc. but minutes a year ago that would have gone to Tyler Zeller, Shabazz Muhammad, Jason Terry et al. have been replaced by Sterling Brown, George Hill, Pat Connaughton, Nikola Mirotic, and the occasional DJ Wilson appearance.
That depth has set up the best team in the NBA at another opportunity to prove that fact to the world, even if they have to do it while climbing uphill.
Milwaukee can’t stop talking about the Bucks. The team hopes to create a dialogue about race. (Washington Post)
One of the most notable changes that has occurred under the Bucks new ownership is the level of activism the team has embraced when confronting problems in Milwaukee off the court. As an organization in a predominantly black league, the Bucks have not shied away from opportunities to work on issues of race in one of America’s most segregated cities.
The challenges that Milwaukee faces will not be solved in a day, and the Bucks can only play a small role in helping fix them, but having the city’s only truly downtown and interconnected sports organization helping lead discussions on race can do nothing but help.
Make sure you find yourself someone who looks at you the same way Giannis looks at Pat Connaughton in the weight room.
It seems almost inexplicable that the former Trail Blazers guard, picked up on a two-year non-guaranteed deal, would be the one to bond with Antetokounmpo over their love of workouts, but here we are. The cliche of “first to enter the gym, last to leave” is widespread in the NBA, but it appears Milwaukee has at least two players who embrace a facsimile of that mantra.
How did the NBA miss on Giannis Antetokounmpo? (Boston Globe)
Thought it was worthwhile to take a peek into the paper-of-choice to see where Boston’s mindset was heading into the series, and, no surprise, Giannis appears to be living in their heads rent-free.
For all the “you can’t show him any fear” and “we have a job to do” quotes there is an underlying theme that there’s just not much they can hope to do to keep him in check. Not even a strategy of “stonewall him and let everyone else beat you” seems viable with how dominant Antetokounmpo has been on both ends of the floor this season.
That is, unless Al Horford really is the rumored Giannis kryptonite we’ve all feared.
The Social Media Section
Alright, this is pretty cool
Giannis heading into the series with the right imagery in his mind
Not sure how I feel about the “piece of gum stuck on the bottom of the shoe” look, but that’s why I’m not a clothing designer
Nikola Mirotic’s entire Instagram is a collection of Midwestern orthodox cathedrals
Who you guys got? I’m picking Milwaukee Greg Monroe over Philadelphia Greg Monroe for sure
Au revoir, sweet princes
The greatest show on Earth may get that much greater soon
New story: Jason Kidd interviewed with Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis for the Lakers' head coaching vacancy on Monday, league sources told ESPN https://t.co/4X2tVJVR1U— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 23, 2019
It’ll be fascinating to see what coach Mike Budenholzer takes away from Game 1. One of the supposed knocks against him in the past is a certain level of inflexibility in the course of a series, and that will be put to the highest test against a coach like Brad Stevens with a history of shifting on the fly. Can the Bucks unblock the stilting offense so prevalent yesterday? If Giannis is going to constantly have 3-4 defenders on him in both transition and half-court offense, how can Milwaukee capitalize?
To a certain extent you have to simply keep faith in what got you here. You don’t win 60 games and have one of the historically dominant seasons in league history by accident, so something has got to give. It’s up to Budenholzer and his players to figure out the puzzle between now and Game 2 on Tuesday.