In a league with a long season like the NBA, it is hard to get all that worked up over a single game. In a league with a regular season that is given less and less credence as a predictor of playoff success like the NBA, it is hard to decide whether a winning or losing streak actually means anything.
Yet amid all those mixed signals, this sport can still kindle feelings of passion from time to time, even if the season isn’t on the line. We went from feeling in the dumps after the first five-game losing streak in roughly forever to something akin to being on top of the world after rattling off five straight with two wonderful performances against the Pelicans and Clippers standing out.
This kind of winning seems to represent more than the past two seasons. Then, wins were about utterly pummeling opponents into the ground night after night with an approach that few (if any) teams were prepared to slow down. Once an opponent had a chance to sit down and parse out what Milwaukee was doing, though, things fell apart at the seams.
Now, wins against top-shelf competition feel more like pieces of a puzzle that Milwaukee is collectively trying to put together. They’ve got the outline in place in the form of Giannis’s do-it-all abilities. Add in another chunk as Khris adds another layer of aggression to his offensive game. Next, throw Jrue’s cool, calm, collected style into the mix. Suddenly your puzzle begins to look a lot like the contending team you see on the box the pieces came in. We aren’t all the way there yet and we may fail to put it together this season, but right now we’re on a hot streak and it is really truly coming together.
And if you wanted everything that I said above, but with a hint more skepticism and a heaping infusion of articulation, you’ve got Steve Aschburner over at NBA.com giving his own version of a 30,000 foot assessment of the Bucks.
How The Best NBA Teams Juggle Their Lineups (FiveThirtyEight)
There’s a ton of really interesting data in here looking at lineup data, and more specifically how the top teams try to navigate playing their star players together or staggering their minutes in a rotation.
Milwaukee appears about 2/3rds of the way through the article in a rainbow of lineup data:
That’s... a lot of moving parts for Mike Budenholzer to balance. Two trends that stick out to my untrained eye: First, Giannis starts almost every second quarter as the solo star on the floor. Second (and probably related) is that Khris + Jrue has been getting more run than Jrue + Giannis. On top of that, Jrue is playing entire second quarters with some regularity as well, probably a sign of his importance in helping staggered lineups function on both ends of the floor.
Better defense Sam Merrill’s goal in second stint with Bucks (Wisconsin State Journal)
Come for the talk about working on his defense as the next step in his career, stay for this killer line about how Merrill understands his role with the Bucks:
“I don’t know what my role is now or going forward but whatever it is, I’m just going to try and do it to the best of my ability. Even if it’s still only playing at the end of games, I’ll do the best I can whenever I get a chance to get in there.”
Not that it really matters who the “face” of a sporting brand is, but isn’t Giannis the pick people should be hoping for? Great movie-like story to the league, lovable personality, awesome power on the court, and a two-time MVP. Luka has the stats, but his style of play is... divisive. Zion is young and probably a few seasons off from widespread acknowledgement as a guy at the peak of the league.
But again, it doesn’t really matter.
Fan Post of the Week
toasterrebound’s “Let’s Boogie” for being short, sweet, and generating a pretty solid response of “eh” to the idea of bringing DeMarcus Cousins to Milwaukee now that he’s a free agent.
Know Your Enemy
Jamal Murray went from one of the best players in the NBA Bubble to something a little less than that out the gates this season. As with any guy going “through it” there’s a mix of falling back on what you’re comfortable doing and eliminating the extra responsibilities heaped on players expected to have a large influence on the game.
- Memphis Grizzlies - Grizzly Bear Blues - The Long View: Reaching Thresholds Leads to Triumphs
Turns out the Bucks aren’t the only team beating up on the Clippers in the past week or so. StatsSAC broke down the Grizzlies’ recent win over LA based on some of the stats that have defined the fence dividing Memphis wins and losses.
The Social Media Section
Let’s rewatch these highlights because they’re that nice
Just having a little bit of fun pic.twitter.com/oxYpmTEpjE— Giannis Ugo Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) March 1, 2021
Marques seems like a great guy and it is a blessing that he’s back in the Bucks fold
I did a National game for CBS a few yrs ago. My producer, this young cat with a know it all persona, got all panicky because I said “he’s amphibious” about an ambidextrous player.The joke went right over his head.Gary Bender once said a good local job is gold. @bucks=motherlode https://t.co/Uuctpp7L61— Elder Marques Johnson (@olskool888) February 26, 2021
Giannis also seems like a truly heartfelt individual
Giannis stepped up for KAT when he needed someone in his corner. pic.twitter.com/i0TdlZfjME— theScore (@theScore) February 24, 2021
Donte & Pat are actually the true star pairing on the team
Bucks' best duo by net points per 100 possessions (min. 200 MIN)...— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) February 27, 2021
Pat Connaughton and Donte DiVincenzo (+22.0)
Bucks' worst duo by net points per 100 possessions (min. 200 MIN)...
DJ Augustin and Brook Lopez (-1.8)
Top five 2-man lineups in the NBA (min. 200 MIN)— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) February 27, 2021
1-P. Connaughton | D. DiVincenzo (+22.0)
2-K. Bazemore | D. Green (+21.2)
3-R. Gay | D. Murray (+20.0)
4-M. Conley | R. O'Neale (+19.5)
5-K. Looney | A. Wiggins (+19.1)
Each team's best and worst duos in the thread below...
By what he loves, he means hanging out with Torrey Craig
Nwora with the new cut
Riley’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 22-12
retired janitor’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 21-13
Two more games stand between the Milwaukee Bucks and the All-Star break (featuring more Giannis and less Khris). Those two lucky teams? The Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies. Milwaukee will play host one final time on this homestand to the Nuggets on Tuesday and then head out on the road to Tennessee on Thursday.
With the Nuggets going through contact tracing after rookie RJ Hampton was entered into the league’s Covid protocols leaving them potentially undermanned, I’ll guess the Bucks take that one. Then they’ll drop the “1-2-3 Cancun” special to a Grizzlies team more concerned with every win they can scratch out if they intend on making the playoffs.
After all that we can kick back and relax while Giannis does his level-best to slog his way through the mandated All-Star Game appearance. It’ll be hard to match the excitement of last year’s ASG, but he can at least thrive in the defense-optional environment of that exhibition.