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, here are the previous entries:
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are from basketball-reference.com, as of Tuesday, March 3.
Bucks’ Season To-Date
Record: 52-9 (1st in Eastern Conference, 1st in NBA)
Offensive Rating: 113.1 (5th in NBA)
Defensive Rating: 101.5 (1st in NBA)
Simple Rating System: 11.12 (1st in NBA)
Bucks’ Last 10
7 away games, 3 home games
8 Eastern Conference matchups, 2 divisional matchups
5 opponents who are 10+ games over 0.500 (Bucks went 3-2)
GIF of the Bucks’ Last 10:
Yes, the Bucks lost a game that Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t even travel for (lucky Liam!) which was right before the All Star break, and came against the desperate-to-find-their-footing Pacers at home. The Bucks also lost a game on the second night of a back to back in Miami, where the Heat hit 18 threes to the Bucks’ 7. On the other hand, the Bucks have taken on, and taken down, other challengers. The Sixers? Thoroughly handled, in part because Philly decided it was worth risking Ben Simmons’ health to try and take a game from Milwaukee. The Raptors? Beaten convincingly, so convincing that Kyle Lowry tried to get creative in Toronto’s comeback attempt.
It’s weird to see that people are legitimately concerned about an 8-2 stretch. Then again, for a team that has been at a 70-win pace for the majority of the season, the recent “difficulties” are a departure from the domination we’ve grown accustomed to. While these aren’t cause for panic, there are a few markers that are worrisome. For example, in their last 10 games, Milwaukee has had four where their overall field goal percentage was below 41%; they only had three other games all year that failed to cross this threshold. Another sign of the Bucks’ struggles; they average 1.8 assists for every 1 turnover (A/TO ratio) on the season, but over the last 10 contests, they only exceeded that mark 4 times.
Of course, none of the on-court results have mattered when it comes to how the Bucks are perceived. “They have the lowest strength of schedule in the league!” Yeah, that’s technically true (minus-1.15, per basketball-reference.com)...because they don’t have to play the Milwaukee Bucks! “Giannis doesn’t have a bag! He’s low skilled!” Yes, he does, and no, he isn't. “Giannis is going to repeat his disappearing act against a playoff defense!” While unlikely, that actual take is based on...the All Star Game.
Come on, Bill. You might as well use the Greek national team’s FIBA performance last summer to push that narrative, it holds up just as well.
It’s difficult to find things to write about while avoiding repetition when considering this Milwaukee Bucks team. They continue to exist in a state of basketball inevitability, despite the outlier shooting nights that put all teams in a rough position. Of course it’s frustrating to see these Bucks lose; it doesn’t happen very often! They’re still in the single digits in the loss column! But it only takes a handful of losses in the postseason to turn a season into a disappointment, and with the signs that fans have noticed it’s understandable (albeit perhaps premature) that they’re applying the harsh lessons of last year to the Bucks’ playoff future.
March 4 – vs. Indiana Pacers (37-24)
March 6 – @ Los Angeles Lakers (46-13)
March 8 – @ Phoenix Suns (24-37)
March 9 – @ Denver Nuggets (41-19)
March 12 – vs. Boston Celtics (41-18)
March 14 – vs. Golden State Warriors (13-48)
March 16 – vs. Miami Heat (39-22)
March 19 – vs. Memphis Grizzlies (30-31)
March 21 – @ Washington Wizards (22-37)
March 23 – vs. Detroit Pistons (20-42)
March 25 – vs. Houston Rockets (39-21)
7 away games, 4 home games
5 Eastern Conference matchups, 2 games against top-4 East teams
W/L Percentage of first five opponents: 0.630 (189-111)
W/L Percentage of last six opponents: 0.448 (163-201)
GIF of the Bucks’ Next
There are going to be some close calls coming up for Milwaukee, especially in the next week and a half. Teams are going to take their best shots at the Bucks, and some of them boast seasons almost as impressive as Milwaukee’s. The Los Angeles Lakers loom as a marquee Friday night matchup (#narrative!), and that game is immediately followed by a back-to-back in Phoenix and Denver. Fortunately there’s a lengthy home stretch (6 out of 7 contests in Milwaukee), but it includes visits from Jayson Tatum and the surging Celtics, the scrap-tastic Miami Heat (who just handed Milwaukee a tough loss), and the travel-sized Houston Rockets.
This is the home stretch. There’s enough games that matter and opponents who will present a serious challenge to the Bucks, as well as enough that should be expected victories. Milwaukee isn’t in imminent danger of getting caught by the Raptors for the top seed in the East, and the Lakers still are a handful of games back when considering home court advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s entirely possible that the Bucks have a disappointing set of performances coming up and their playoff seeding is unaffected. That won’t necessarily make anybody feel better, but I don’t think that feelings will change significantly until the Bucks’ postseason aspirations are met...or missed.