The Milwaukee Bucks did everything in their power to try and play us off the ledge last week. Their five straight victories, and for this article’s timeline beating Indiana, Cleveland (twice) and Denver, provided a significant dose of optimism into a fanbase that was tearing its hair out after successive losses. Unfortunately, the challenges aren’t going to let up anytime soon, and they’ll only face a tougher road ahead with Jrue Holiday at home due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Get well, Jrue. Keep winning, Bucks. Let’s wrap-up.
The Week That Was
- Milwaukee 130, Indiana 110 (Bucks Clobber Pacers)
- Milwaukee 123, Cleveland 105 (Bucks Grind out Victory in Cleveland)
- Milwaukee 124, Cleveland 99 (A Rout That Felt Rarely Ever in Doubt)
- Milwaukee 125, Denver 112 (Bucks Snag Huge Victory)
Besting Malcolm Brogdon, but more importantly a pesky looking Indiana Pacers team, was a promising continuation of the shotmaking that propelled them past Portland. Yes, Jrue shut down Brogdon, but Giannis Antetokounmpo looking composed and zen-like in his playmaking was a more promising sign. The two games against Cleveland featured seven and 16 three-pointers respectively. The first was a domination of the interior, the latter taking advantage of an increased focus on the inside, as shooters were open and delivering with buckets all evening.
Denver was the most impressive of the whole week, particularly with the late knowledge that Jrue Holiday would be unavailable. In his stead, Khris Middleton shouldered the playmaking load and tag-teamed with Giannis in the scoring category to pull off the win. With contributions up and down the roster, the Bucks put together perhaps their most impressive victory of the season to date. More where that came from please!
I’m eschewing an opening game set that resulted in a made bucket for something that felt far more intricate and interesting. It’s also a fun inversion of a duo we’ve seen make hay this year. Let’s focus in on the Denver game, when coach Bud draws up his first set for Bryn Forbes to get comfortable in his initial reps as a starter.
Even with the clank, it was clear Bud wanted to instill confidence in Forbes. He does just that by using Giannis at the free throw line (a space he’s growing increasingly comfortable at as the Bucks face more zone defenses) as a decoy designed to knock the chasing Jamal Murray off his spot. Donte has cleared out, as has Brook, spacing out on the wings and corners to create airspace at the top for the quality look.
It starts with Middleton propping himself in the corner, where he’ll work up to eventually snag the ball later. Meanwhile, Forbes and DiVincenzo huddle close for warmth on the right wing before the Big Ragu splits to the left side, forcing his defender Michael Porter Jr. to navigate around the bundle of bodies in the middle.
Forbes follows closely behind, but veers off into the restricted area where he sits and tries to avoid a 3-second violation. Lopez branches out to give Giannis a target to hit while Middleton fakes one way before veering towards the top of the arc to get the handoff from Lopez. Giannis is about to slink his way to the free throw line.
Finally, Giannis nicks just enough of Jamal Murray with his screen that he has to furiously recover to Forbes before he can turnaround and launch a shot off from deep. We’ve seen a lot of Forbes picking-and-popping for Giannis this year, but here the 7-footer gets to return the favor and free up his favorite Delly stand-in for an open look. Forbes hasn’t been shy this whole season to shoot, but maybe Bud calling his number early gave him a little juice that helped lead to his 15-point, 6-9 shooting performance.
On the StruggleBucks
Here’s the thing about a 5-0 week during a season where the team hasn’t lived up to the runaway success of season’s past...it makes it a LOT less fun to focus on what hasn’t been working. So, I’m not putting anything on the struggleBucks out this week, but will say I’m fascinated to see how much switching is incorporated during this road trip. With no Holiday, there’s significantly less switchability in the backcourt, plus the Bucks reverted back to a lot of zone drop over this past week. The Jazz were one of the key teams that tore up that very defense just a few weeks ago with guard-on-guard pick-and-rolls that led to triple after triple. Let’s see how Bud opts to play it.
Finally, Giannis evened up the standings among the Bucks Big Three, giving each player two trophies each this season. Holiday is going to lag behind depending on how long he is out due to health and safety protocols, but he played enough to be one of the principals of this week’s voting. As much as we’re all riding high of Middleton’s performance against Denver, please remember this is a weekly MVP award, encompassing every game from Indiana on. Now, for your consideration:
Giannis Antetokounmpo (4 GP: 27.0 pts, 11.5 reb, 4.8 ast, 0.8 stl, 2.0 blk)
Triple-double in three qtrs.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 4, 2021
21 PTS | 14 REB | 10 AST | 2 STL pic.twitter.com/AIYlxC7U4X
Khris Middleton (4 GP: 19.0 pts, 4.5 reb, 6.3 ast, 1.0 stl)
K-Midd on another level.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 9, 2021
29 PTS | 12 AST | 8 REB | 3 STL pic.twitter.com/TcqvGUbPhB
Jrue Holiday (3 GP: 16.0 pts, 4.3 reb, 6.0 ast, 2.0 stl, 0.7 blk)
Week 7: The Bucks MVP was...
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As always, thanks for reading the weekly wrap-up!