It’s been awhile since the Bucks were punched in the mouth not once, not twice, but three times over the course of a single seven-day span. The first jab came in Miami, the second from the Lakers, and the third by those pesky Suns after Giannis sustained a left knee tweak in LA.
When you’ve won so damn much, though, even a bad week won’t do much to dent your stranglehold on the conference. The worries about how the Bucks can handle teams like Miami and LA should they meet in the playoffs are fair, in my opinion. Yes, each game can be waved away by reffing, cold shooting, hot shooting, injuries, travel, all sorts of things. Still, losses are far more instructive than wins for Milwaukee, and so each should be taken on-board with a degree of seriousness uncommon to 1/82nd of a season.
What will make analyzing the weaknesses so difficult is the news that Giannis will be held out for at least a bit with a knee knock. He won’t want to sit out for long, and the Bucks shouldn’t want him to either if they’d like him to rebuild any slight declines in stamina over the coming weeks. That pushes the responsibility upon Khris Middleton to take over again, on Eric Bledsoe to be consistently good, on Brook Lopez to shoulder an inside-out load, on the bench to re-find their groove that led to the crowning of the Bench Mob.
The regular season is close to a wrap this late in the year, but there’s still plenty to work on and learn for Milwaukee. Just look at the past week for the evidence.
Pitchman: Giannis’ pursuit of Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver is paying off (The Athletic - Paywall)
I try to refrain from going behind the paywall often on the MMMR, but there’s a reason why Eric Nehm gets so much praise for the unique work he puts out. This piece in particular, highlighting Giannis’s first forays into player recruitment in the summer of 2019, is too good to exclude.
In it Giannis comes across exactly as you’d expect him in pursuing free agents to make up for the loss of Malcolm Brogdon: Straight-forward, a little hesitant at what was the ‘right thing’ to say, serious in his assuming a new responsibility as Milwaukee’s pillar. The result was the landing of Matthews and Korver — both of whom have fit in well as Bucks — and an even stronger regular season than that of 2018-2019.
All In on the Milwaukee Bucks, Still (New York Times)
Ah yes, friend of the site (maybe) Wes Edens gets a little shine on this week’s MMMR. Not for anything he did from the Bucks ownership suite, mind you, but because he’s deep in the muck of running English Premier League team Aston Villa.
In a way the timing worked out pretty well for Edens: Having purchased a controlling share of Villa in 2018 Edens would shortly come off his time as governor of the Bucks. He’d be a little less involving in day-to-day decision-making in Milwaukee and could turn to his other jewel.
So if you’ve wondered Where In The World Is Wes Edens? worry not; he’s just in the West Midlands.
A ton of good data in here that illustrates yet again just how stifiling Giannis is as an individual and scheme defender. We all know that and see it on a nightly basis with glee. It’s been so overwhelming at times that there’s even a legitimate chance he wins both MVP and DPOY in the same season.
The question mark remains, though. Will coach Mike Budenholzer throw the two-big defensive scheme aside and opt to assign Giannis to an opponent’s best individual offensive threat? And even if he does, will Giannis have the gas tank to maintain otherworldly output on both ends of the court through not one, not two, but hopefully four consecutive series?
Kevin Arnovitz on the Bucks and MVP race (The Lowe Post Podcast)
50 minutes of ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz diving deep on the Bucks and Giannis galavanting to his second MVP award? Yes please!
Another in a long line of good pieces examining just a tiny slice of the Antetokounmpo Family as a basketballing entity both on and off the court. The main thing that shines through is the immense pressure the youngest Antetokounmpo, Alex, must feel having three brothers who have successfully gone pro. He’ll surely get a boost on that path thanks to his last name and natural skillset, but that’s a ton to live up to.
Know Your Enemy
Yeah yeah yeah yeah Steph Curry is back, okay, cool whatever. What matters to us is how they’re treating our good friend Dragan Bender. Turns out they’ve treated him pretty well! Or as well as you can before signing a guy to a minimum deal to close the season with two 10-day contracts thrown his way. Just don’t go for 50 against us, Mr. Bender.
When it comes down to it, Marcus Smart continues to be one of the scariest challenges to overcome in any series against the Celtics. Deride him as many (often rightfully) do for his willingness to flop at-will to get calls, it’s tough to argue that he isn’t an excellent defender beyond the antics. Assuming he comes to play on that side of the floor, how much scarier he gets depends on how streaky his offense is on any given night. In two matchups against Milwaukee he went 5-11 and 5-10 from three respectively playing a big role in two furious second-half comebacks for the Celtics. It’s as up-and-down as you get in the NBA, but it might all be worth it if the ups are so damn high.
Nuggets - Denver Stiffs - Nikola Jokic: when is seeing actually believing, anyway?
Last time the Bucks played the Nuggets, I confidently told the other staff members that I, “wasn’t impressed by” Nikola Jokic on either end of the floor. Then the Bucks got handed a big fat L and I had to keep quiet as Jokic resurrected in the second half. I fell into the trap almost anyone who catches just the occasional Denver game falls into: Thinking that Jokic is just some lumbering dude who even you could get a few shots up against.
Fan Content of the Week
Reader munchtime provided a little bit of braking to The Donte Top-15 Player train, and he’s likely not wrong even if we all love DDV to death (and it started a pretty good discussion about just what Donte’s ceiling could be)
The Social Media Section
But, DJ, it’s still winter here in Minneapolis?
GET HIM, BEN!
Column: For years, James Harden has faced reductive & unfair criticism. But in his war of words with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Harden stooped to the level of his worst trolls @PostSports https://t.co/Kuzc7SLf69 pic.twitter.com/mIAWvXuoE4— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) March 2, 2020
I’m going to be so mad when Milwaukee’s championship has the asterisk, “LeBron James got Covid-19”
Shoutout to Brian AKA Bucks Film Room for putting this together; concerning in some ways, for sure
Take care of your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves.— Bucks Film Room (Brian Sampson) (@BucksFilmRoom) March 8, 2020
The Bucks' offensive rating ranks 22nd(!) since Jan. 18th and it's all the little things that have gotten them in trouble. https://t.co/t4JQHsC2on
Sounds like the guy hectoring Giannis is a real deplorable piece of work
Khris picking up Kwik Trip as a sponsor is the true indicator of superstardom
Light. Years. Ahead.
I’m sure the G-League sees a ton of ups and downs year-over-year given roster fluidity, but this is still supremely impressive
The Wisconsin Herd mirror it's NBA affiliate Bucks. 1st to clinch playoff berth. League's best record. Dominant five-out system.@WisconsinHerd @FrankMason0 @10jadams @JemerrioJ @CamoCinco https://t.co/VRg9spEaou— Jerell the Journalist (@jerellrushin_) March 2, 2020
MMMR 2019-2020 Prediction Record: 41-23
retired janitor’s 2019-2020 Prediction Record: 53-11
The fickle nature of basketball means that one injury can quickly derail any shot at consistent short-term success. On top of that, the Bucks are on the road for a back-to-back in Denver tonight and return to a threat in the Boston Celtics and a wildcard in the Curry-rejuvenated Golden State Warriors.
0-3 is pessimistic, but after last night’s drubbing it feels like anything is possible as a solution is found to staunch the bleeding.