Where We’re At
The Bucks got blasted last night by the New Orleans Pelicans, who set a franchise record for threes made in a game (21, including seven a piece from notoriously-meh shooters Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe). This is not new; it was the third game this season that the opponent made more than 20 threes against Milwaukee, and the thirteenth game that the opponent has made more than the league average (12.8 makes). On the season, the Bucks are allowing the third-most makes per game from downtown (14.8) on the third-highest conversion rate (38.9% shooting). Brew Hoop founder Frank Madden weighed in on the team’s defense on Twitter last night:
Both points can help address some of the three point vulnerabilities they’ve had, though you also can’t stop everything all the time. Ok to give up 3FGA if you take away everything else, and Bucks are actually allowing lower share of shots at rim and from three than last year.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) January 30, 2021
The good news is that Bucks continue to lead the league in offense by almost 2 pts/100, but their defensive ceiling is clearly lower with Portis as their primary backup big and Augustin as the backup PG.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) January 30, 2021
It gets more interesting. As The Athletic’s Eric Nehm reported in his story, the Bucks’ two main defenders (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday) do not appear to be on the same page regarding the team’s strategic decisions. In the quotes Eric analyzed below, you’ll read Giannis supporting the strategy by looking at the team’s long-term results and how opponents must perform at a high level to beat the Bucks, while Jrue believes that the strategy creates an environment which makes opponents more comfortable and therefore better-equipped to perform at a high level.
“If you go into a year and you say, OK, we’re going to play 72 games, this year obviously. Say it was a normal year and we play 82 games. You’re going to lose 20 games, 25 games, 30 games and the other team is going to shoot franchise records in 3s. Would you live with that? I’d live with it,” Antetokounmpo said. “If every time a team beat us, they break a franchise record for 3s, they make 21, you gotta live with that, you know what I’m saying?
“That complements your defense. They gotta play the best basketball possible. They gotta break franchise records in order for them to have a chance to beat you. And they did it. Bled made seven. Lonzo made seven. You gotta live with that.”
While Antetokounmpo threw his support behind the strategy, his new teammate Jrue Holiday did not feel quite the same. Even though he believed there were moments the Bucks defended well, Holiday thought the attention paid to Pelicans stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram early in the game might have helped the Pelicans gain confidence from behind the 3-point line.
“They had some wide-open ones trying to help and dig on Zion and they made some good passes, but I felt like a lot of them were contested and they made their shots,” Holiday said after putting up 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the loss. “They were locked in, and they made them. Early, when you get in a rhythm like that and you see the ball go in, the rim just gets bigger.”
For Holiday, the solution to slowing opponents’ 3-point shooting is switching, the defensive adjustment the Bucks tend to make in games once they fall behind.
Who knew that a random late-January game against a non-playoff team in the West would bring so many insights into the current state of the Bucks? At present, the Bucks have no injuries to report and should be at full strength tonight.
In Charlotte, the Hornets recently split a pair of games against the Indiana Pacers after splitting a pair of games agains the Orlando Magic, and are...once again in the familiar territory of sub-0.500. They are a franchise that’s been slightly reinvigorated by the addition of Gordon Hayward, who is thriving in a more prominent role while surrounded by young, developing talent. The team’s story has been a streaky one this season, but for the first time in a while they are at full strength and have no injuries reported.
Player To Watch: LaMelo Ball
This is the only game with Charlotte on the schedule, meaning it’s our only chance for the first half of the season to get a look at rookie LaMelo Ball. Coming off the bench, Ball is posting decent counting stats (11.4 points, 5.9 assists, 5.9 rebounds) while predictably struggling with his shot (28.6% from deep) and wowing viewers with his passing skills. He has a while to go before he lives up to the hype (or even crack the starting lineup), but Ball is accumulating quite the list of highlights already.
Game 19: Against Charlotte, the Bucks will...
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