Maybe all they needed was a week off?
You wouldn’t normally call beating teams like the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards statement wins, but for this Bucks team? We’ll take it.
With those wins the Bucks are now 8-2 in their last 10 games. Sure, some of the opponents weren’t exactly inspiring, but the team pulled out of the Jrue Holiday-less nosedive they had been in previously. I can’t exactly say they’re a dominant force, but it does seem like the Bucks have three ovearching things working in their favor right now.
First, there’s the overall shift in the way Giannis Antetokounmpo has been playing. Previously a sledgehammer, he retains a bruising nose for the basket, but there has been a more thoughtful angle to his role on offense. His AST% sits at 28.1 which is below his numbers from 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, but they’ve steadily increased as this season wears on:
Giannis Antetokounmpo's AST% by month this season:— Riley Feldmann (@RileyFeldmann) March 13, 2021
December - 25.5%
January - 27.4%
February - 28.6%
March - 33.3%
His per-game turnover number is a hair beneath previous seasons at 3.6, but his AST:TO ratio is higher than during his two MVP campaigns. If he reins himself in a hair and his teammates step forward, that’s a promising sign for Milwaukee.
Second, you have the presence of Jrue Holiday. I commented elsewhere that Holiday may be the most languid power athlete in the NBA. We talk about his controlled play, and I think it relates best to his understanding and using his physicality at the right times and in the right places. Eric Bledsoe was a physical force, but the decision-making on when and how best to apply himself would lack at times outside of blowing up pick & roll coverages. With Jrue, the speed with which he identifies a mismatch — especially on offense — must be frightful for opponents to deal with. Watch any Bucks game and you will see Jrue meander his way to the paint with a guard ill-equipped to defend him, and its just a few seconds before Holiday simply muscles his defender out of the way for a shot. In Mike Budenholzer’s “do whatever you feel like” scheme, having a player like Holiday unafraid to exploit a mismatch over and over again, only to find another avenue when the other team adjusts, is worth its weight in gold.
Finally, both the players the coaching staff are likely feeling more confident in how to use the personnel on the roster. Losing Jrue for a 10 game stretch threw a spanner into the works, but even those lost minutes may have given Mike Budenholzer and company a chance to evalute different guys in different roles as they put together a solid rotation. In a truncated season, only nine players have featured in more than 30 games, and the lowest per game minute count among that group is 18.7 by Bryn Forbes. Compare that to a year ago where 15 players would notch more than double-digit per game minute numbers during their appearances. This is a tighter squad, and with that may hopefully come a fine-tuning of how they best play together.
In the previous two seasons, the talk was about having an eye to the postseason. That goal remains the same, but the approach feels altogether altered. It isn’t always pretty, but the payoff could be big.
Now, after that long diatribe to say “the Bucks could potentially be good”, let’s hammer through these headlines:
The Bucks Are Trying To Win In Clutch Time Without Giving Giannis The Ball (FiveThirtyEight)
A lot of fancy numbers, great explanations, and thoughtful analysis, all of which essentially results in this:
Wild sequence here in Memphis. Ja Morant with a great attack and finish to put Memphis back up. Bucks with no timeouts, great outlet from Donte to Jrue Holiday who pushes and hits a fadeaway. pic.twitter.com/uUKYtSNvRr— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) March 5, 2021
Don’t let the “hero ball” mentality cloud your vision. If Giannis can become the MVP of setting screens to open up the offense in the final possessions, then dammit, I want him to become the MVP of setting screens to open up the offense in the final possessions.
Bucks’ Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton among 57 potentials for US team for Tokyo Olympics (Wisconsin State Journal)
Could Jrue or Khris be on their way to Tokyo this summer to take part in the Olympics? Well, that depends on two things: one, whether the Olympics will go ahead at all and two, whether they have enough juice left after the playoffs and/or enough other guys drop out of the running. Olympic teams only take 12 players, and cracking that group could prove a serious challenge. (Note: Brook Lopez is also in the player pool)
Bucks trade deadline preview: How Milwaukee can address its playoff flaws with minimal assets (CBS Sports)
I like that Robin Lopez leaving the Bucks was spun as simply a financial matter. All credit to Robin for cashing in with the Wizards, but his role was pretty limited with Milwaukee as well, so the suggestion of adding him as a buyout guy seems… strange.
Anyways, I fully endorse any trade or signing scenario that sees us netting any fabled “Bucks Killer”. Terrence Ross, Taj Gibson, the ghost of Chicago Pau Gasol; all are welcome in Milwaukee so that they stop the pain.
Sargento Foods Announces Five-Year Extension as Official Cheese of the Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks.com)
I’d have it no other way, and honestly? They should just be the jersey patch sponsor, too.
Fan Post of the Week
Nobody posted anything, so nobody wins. Except for me. I always win.
Know Your Enemy
- Washington Wizards - Bullets Forever - Wizards fan confidence drops at All-Star Break
I’ve always been curious how a “confidence poll” measurement taken each week and then visualized would look from our fanbase. Feels like we’ve been sitting in a smooth zone of 30%-65% for a few years now.
- Philadelphia 76ers - Liberty Ballers - Joel Embiid, destroying everything in his path, is careening towards a SuperMax extension
Knee injury aside (and thankfully it looks like it was a minor one), Joel Embiid has been good this year. I only say good because I’m constitutionally incapable of praising anything related to the Sixers. Anyways, Embiid is likely to be the next guy to get paid a bajillion dollars as a supermax player. Not bad for a third overall pick.
- San Antonio Spurs - Pounding the Rock - LaMarcus and the Spurs have agreed to part ways
It’s a shame that the LMA free agency coup didn’t work out for the Spurs, and his departure from the scene was inevitable once San Antonio’s Kawhi fortunes changed. Whether the Spurs can find a trade partner to absorb Aldridge’s $24 million salary is an open question.
The Social Media Section
Salute to the greatest buyout candidate that never was
Alexa. Play Billie Holiday pic.twitter.com/sJVjsXctBX— Ersan Ilyasova (@Ersan) March 11, 2021
Vote him in, cowards
#Bucks legend Marques Johnson (@olskool888) is once again a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) March 9, 2021
The Class of 2021 will be announced on May 16.
We visited @koppscustard in Wisconsin to see exactly how frozen custard is made pic.twitter.com/1gkn9u3FpE— Food Insider (@FoodInsider) March 11, 2021
The movement grows
Nice E, need start calling you EZ-E, floating in the air like that ❤️— Elder Marques Johnson (@olskool888) March 12, 2021
Mamadi is already a Lakeland legend
“We did it for you, @_mdiakite!!”— Wisconsin Herd (@WisconsinHerd) March 12, 2021
Mamadi made sure he checked in with @LakelandMagic after they won the 2021 @nbagleague championship!
Some of these fast break sequences are poetry in motion
I put my heart, soul, grit, and determination into every game. Find your life's calling and follow it!— Sidney Moncrief (@sidneymoncrief_) March 11, 2021
️Video by @NBAHistory pic.twitter.com/xJyzKymFRK
We do, thanks to you
...why is the official Nike “Antetokounmpo” symbol plastered all over the Forum hallways?
Riley’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 23-15
retired janitor’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 24-14
Falling behind yet again as trusting “my gut” versus “the numbers” works against me. It was a hell of a streak, though.
The Bucks have a three game week ahead, beginning tonight in Washington in a finish to those teams’ two-game series before heading to Philly Wednesday and finally hosting San Antonio Saturday.
I’ll actually throw my lot in with rj, as the Wizards aren’t great, the Sixers are without future-supermax-guy Joel Embiid, and the Spurs are down a LMA while Popovich will want to give his protege a boost with a win. Good guy Pop can always be counted on.