They don’t matter. I get it and have internalized that message. This is an extended preseason for Milwaukee and what happens now should, in theory, hold little bearing on what happens starting two to three weeks from now.
But am I allowed to be worried? For this thought exercise I’ve granted myself that authority.
I’m worried about the bench. There, I said it.
For every great bit of play by Giannis, Khris, and Brook (each of which is much welcomed and could prove to be decisive) there have been equally mediocre outings from the rest of the ostensible rotation. Let’s start with the three point shooting as an area of focus:
Bucks Bench Bubble three-point shooting:— Riley Feldmann (@RileyFeldmann) August 9, 2020
Of the guys shooting better than 30% Pat is the only one who should probably get real minutes. Apologies to the Korver and Ersan fans, but the concerns about their presence defensively override whatever craftiness they bring on the other end.
For the other minute-getters like Donte, Hill, and Williams the proverbial rust is a serious concern if they’re meant to share the court with the likes of Giannis or Khris for any stretch of time. Assuming Mike Budenholzer adjusts his rotation to ensure one of those guys is on the court at any one time, the role of the other players often boils down to ‘make your shots’. One single possession a Bubble does not make, but just recall the final sequence to Saturday’s fourth quarter against Dallas: Khris and Giannis played a two-man game that sucked the attention of the defense. Out of a double-team the ball was launched to a criminally open Hill with plenty of time to set his shot from three for the win.
If there is one or two bench guys struggling from distance you can survive that, but the degree of difficulty rises exponentially as opponents key ever more in on your stars. In that case, with a wall being thrown at Giannis and Khris you need need need the other three guys to hit shots. Nothing complicated about that.
So far that just hasn’t happened at an acceptable rate. There is time to get into a rhythm, so it could be moot, but five games against mostly good competition is not a negligible sample. All that doesn’t even begin to get into things on the defensive end, though that feels like a wider team issue rather than individual defenders really dragging their feet.
We’ve got 7 games until there are stakes. The stars seem ready and have gotten a boost from their starting-unit teammates. Let’s hope the other guys show up, too.
The Giannis-Luka rivalry can define the NBA’s future (ESPN)
In NBA circles there is always a quest to find new rivals for upcoming stars. It adds drama, the heft of stakes in what are normally individually unimportant regular season games, and gives us some nice narratives to chew on.
It was inevitable that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Donćic would find themselves in opposite corners when the basketball intelligentsia discusses “The Next Era of Basketball”. Foreign-born players who hail from different basketballing pedigrees, they each embody the sheer range of possibilities available on a basketball court to the upper crust of players.
And so last night can serve as maybe the first signature duel between Giannis and Luka with Donćic getting the better of things through a truly masterful offensive performance. He possesses a flair unique to his combination of size and ball-control, and the fact that these two aren’t natural matches in defending one another means we get to evaluate each on the merits of what they allow their teams to do.
With the Age of LeBron winding down the search for the next guy up was already underway. Looks like that top spot is going to be contested for a long time.
The Milwaukee Bucks Are Ready for a Long Stay in the Bubble (New York Times)
Mitchell broached the topic of “what is wrong with the Bucks” last week after the team dropped one against the so-called Brooklyn Nets, and in the comments section I went on an incoherent tirade about the continual reliance of “rest” as Milwaukee’s differentiating strategy.
It turns out that rest mantra spooled out beyond the games into practices before and after arrival in The Bubble. The idea makes sense — avoid throwing guys into high-intensity action after four months away — and is being touted as the intelligent play by people in the know. Still, I’m a worrywort, so chillaxing for chillaxing’s sake feels like a risk that could backfire down the line.
The Backup Backup Nets Shocked the World (The Ringer)
There’s no shame in losing to the worst teams imaginable in what you consider to be your preseason. If these games mattered then you’d wonder at the way in which you lost to the G-League’s G-League Nets, but then you recall that even the supposed worst NBA players still occupy the top percentile of all players on the planet so no harm, no foul.
As long as the Bucks romp the Nets in the first-round a little over a week from now all will be forgiven.
Giannis Antetokounmpo says Bucks’ biggest obstacle after clinching 1-seed ‘is ourselves’ (ESPN)
“You see that seven-foot tall Greek man in the mirror? He is your enemy. Master him and you have mastered yourself, thus unlocking the door to unlimited potential. Master him and people will stop moaning about how I’m ‘inflexible’.”
-Coach Bud to the team after taking a sizeable sip of Marc Lasry’s wine in a Bubble lockerroom
The Social Media Section
Interesting angle, boss man
How much of the worry around MIL stems from going 1-3 vs. 4 teams that were at their best playing styles that the Bucks are vulnerable to?— Mitchell Maurer (@Mitchell_NBA) August 9, 2020
HOU: ultra-small ball, tons of 3s
BKN: ultra-small ball, tons of 3s
MIA: small ball, great 3PT%
DAL: small-ish, tons of 3s, all-time offense
Brook being an Orlando City fan is peak Florida Man Who Moved to Florida type stuff
Which one of us has the more refined palate? #GlowyIceCubeThingy #Narcoossees pic.twitter.com/taWveZS082— Robin Lopez (@rolopez42) August 4, 2020
Definition of calling your shot
As wild of a take as it is, I think the Bucks are going to win this game. Milwaukee has been stuck in a rut for most of the seeding games, and that big deficit early might be the shock to the system they needed to surge ahead. They also just need to play better, but they can.— Ti Windisch (@TiWindisch) August 6, 2020
Now make the second half the rest of the games
Bucks 1st half vs 2nd half. pic.twitter.com/Sfaz2ZZyN1— Dalton Sell (@sell_dalton) August 6, 2020
It is written in the stars
this duo in two years pic.twitter.com/ChZTeytIoG— ryan (@dlotomke) August 4, 2020
An image from happier pre-today’s-MMMR times
No. 1 seed goes brrrrr
Didn’t end up mattering, but Donte was awful in the next game after this post
Riley’s 2020 NBA BUBBLE Prediction Record: 2-6
retiredjanitor’s 2020 NBA BUBBLE Prediction Record: 4-4
If you thought the previous eight games didn’t matter, just brace yourselves for how little we should care about these next three.
Milwaukee closes the “regular” season with games against the Raptors tonight, the Wizards tomorrow, and the Grizzlies on Thursday. Between a locked-up top seed, a weekend OT game, and the need to try and get the bench guys plenty of reps we will be seeing Mike Budenholzer at his not-caring apex this week.
Chalk me up for 1-2 with the win coming over the Wizards who somehow have even less to play for than the Nets. Toronto will try to prove a point (which the general public will applaud) and the Grizzlies will probably be playing for their playoff lives. Stakes v. no stakes will be the difference here.