Last time, on Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up:
Just a few weeks ago, we were discussing the Milwaukee Bucks likely nadir of the season following back-to-back losses against the New Orleans Pelicans and Charlotte Hornets. Seemingly, based upon the gloom and doom that clouded over the end of their road trip, that proclamation was premature. With not a W to speak of over the past week, there’s not a lot of positives in Bucksland, but we must trudge on and wrap-up all the same.
What a difference two weeks makes, huh? Sure, y’all had to deal with yet another frustrating Toronto Raptors loss after my last wrap-up, and Tuesday night’s uber-clunker against the Nuggets was rough, but mostly it’s been coming up Bango time and time again. Let’s wrap-up.
The Week That Was
- Bucks 129, Pelicans 125 (Bucks Knock off Pelicans)
- Bucks 105, Clippers 100 (Bucks Win a Thriller vs. Clippers)
- Bucks 97, Nuggets 128 (Nuggets Fly Past Bucks)
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and the frigid Milwaukee air provided a perfect platter to freeze-out the Crystal-hot shooting New Orleans managed down in the bayou. Lonzo and Eric Bledsoe still shot well respectively, but a 1-10 Ingram performance from deep is enough regression for my taste. It was brute on brute with Giannis and Zion taking center stage, even if Brook did the finest job of disrupting Zion at the rim in my opinion. Winning their first game of the year after entering the fourth down or tied provided a perfect entree into their marquee victory of the season against the Los Angeles Clippers.
We finally got the Giannis on Kawhi two-way matchup we’d been longing for since the 2019 EC Finals, although that was mostly thanks to Jrue Holiday playing limited minutes in his return from the league’s health and safety protocols. Giannis shined the way he had against just about everyone lately, but this time it came in the form of delivering down the stretch as Paul George and Leonard did not.
The Denver game was a shellacking from start to end. The Bucks couldn’t figure out Denver’s offense, which pummeled them repeatedly both in the paint and primarily with a dizzying array of shotmaking in the midrange and at the rim. Donte DiVincenzo junked up a dunk and I guess lost the ability to shoot beneath the rim? Odd loss. It was nice to see drop, zone and switching defensively with key players all in the same game though.
Bud went to a smallball lineup against the Los Angeles Clippers late rather than forcing Brook’s 7-foot square dome into the roundball court. That was truly Bud’s best this week, but there was a particularly nifty sequence that started the Pelicans game and, as is often the case in this section, set the table for Mr. MJ’s (Delaware Edition) massive evening.
This one starts with our routine spacing action, except this time it’s Giannis taking the ball handler role with the Bucks bereft of point guards. Bobby Portis is filling Brook’s ceremonial “Stand in the corner” role. Donte is the facilitator, but it starts and ends with Brook.
Khris gets the action started by running through a flock of fellas at the free throw line. Brook frees him up by getting just enough of Lonzo Ball with a screen from his burly body. Donte is just starting to curl up from the left corner, while Brook peeks behind in anticipation of flipping his body to screen Bledsoe as he chases Donte. Giannis shifts to the right to free up some space. Bobby stares intimidatingly and flexes. And just a few seconds later...
Boom. Brook has already won at this point. He slipped the screen, and Bledsoe jumped around him in anticipation of the collision. By that point, Donte had already started to penetrate. Bledsoe is stuck out of position and Donte’s quick decision forced Williamson to wait just a beat while Brook started his trot towards the tin. After that, it’s a solid enough pass from Donte and Lopez manages to contort his body, snag the ball and flip in the shot. Impressive for someone of Lopez’s size. And yes, Bobby is still staring intimidatingly.
More importantly, the reason this play stood out wasn’t so much that it was called for Brook, but more as a call for Donte to either shoot or pass to Lopez depending on what opened up. Both elements of his game were working in that Pelicans game, but it was the passing that stuck out more to me. Throughout his nine assists, he was frequently penetrating just enough to draw defenders and finding fellow Bucks slinking into prime spots around the rim.
On the StruggleBucks...NOT
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm won at the Golden Globes this week, so I feel comfortable capitalizing upon a bankrupt joke to flip the premise of this section. The Milwaukee Bucks have mostly been rolling lately, and it’s been upon the broad back of their superstar finally finding his wings. Or, more aptly, his patience. At points in the past, that’s been in short supply for Giannis Antetokounmpo. And who can blame the guy? When you lead the league in unassisted dunks for years, can routinely slink around almost anyone and leap over NBA-sized humans, I would be pile-driving into every body I could find. Heck, I’d ask for volunteers off the street.
But Giannis has chosen the path of lesser resistance lately, primarily by showing a thoroughly enjoyable preference for planting himself in the post. The Blogfather himself, Frank Madden, made this very point the other day:
While we haven't seen Giannis improve as a jump-shooter, his effectiveness in the post has been major bright spot since early Jan: after starting year just 2/12 in the post, he's hit 40/64 (63%) and averaged an excellent 1.17 points per play since. Last year: 55% and 0.92 PPP. https://t.co/xAnD9qUSAp— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) February 27, 2021
Overall, the numbers remains only semi-impressive given the horrendous start Frank lays out above, but the post has been a clear opportunity for Giannis improvement for years. As many focused upon the 3-point shooting forces opponents closer to him, advancing his post game always seemed a more realistic pathway to the pinnacle of offensive domination, and that’s only been proven more true as his 3-point percentage has plateaued.
Really good patience from Giannis in the post, he goes into his move as soon as Adams leaves to get back to Lopez. pic.twitter.com/6KJlZoF8BO— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) February 26, 2021
Let’s highlight specifically that play that Mo called out above. He doesn’t get hurried or try to pass out or bully his way into what might be an offensive foul against a smaller player. Instead, he waits for Adams to leave and fights his way atop the restricted area arc for a push shot. Those are the type of “top of the arc” shots I much prefer. It’s essentially unblockable, and with a bit more touch it could become a deadly shot he could get almost anytime a team opts not to double him. That’s his pet move in the post, and the next step is using that to set up other moves, like he does here against Ibaka.
It’s pretty clear Serge is playing him for the push towards the middle of the lane, trying to prevent that move and anticipating the hop in and push shot. Instead, Giannis flips it on him and makes his move baseline as he keeps his pivot foot for a wide-open slam. Post-ups make up only 12.6% of his play type repertoire, per NBA.com, which has remained consistent for around the last four seasons for him. This year, it’s grown more potent though. He’s at 1.03 points per play, in contrast to 0.92 last year and closer to his 2018-19 level of 0.99 ppp. As a point of comparison, Joel Embiid is at 1.09 points per play, albeit on a monstrous 9.1 post-ups per game. I’m not entirely sure where this data is drawn from, but for the real Greek Freaks who want to break Giannis down even more granularly in regards to just hook shots, NBAwowy has that data for you. (spoiler: it’s fine.)
Giannis ramped up his post-ups per game somewhat considerably in February, going from 4.6 in December, to 3.5 per game in January and 5.8 this past month. Giannis improved patience down there hasn’t exactly translated to an unbelievable field goal percentage, although his 55.7% mark in the post is still in the top ten among all players who attempt at least one post-up shot per game. He rarely had the chance to do damage this way against Denver, especially when they went to a zone and he started treating their defense as a dribbling drill. Giannis did get one early post position against MPJ that’s instructive.
Obviously you want Giannis to hit that, but it’s indicative of a greater trend on post-ups this year: a significant increase in his visits to the foul line. Part of that could be intentional fouls given his struggles there this year, but if his improved free throw percentage holds up, his ability to draw fouls will add to his po(s)tency as the season continues. In about half as many games, he’s nearly matched the number of free throws attempted from the post as last year.
Giannis Post-ups by Season
|Season||Games||Post-ups/Game||FTA (off post-ups)|
|Season||Games||Post-ups/Game||FTA (off post-ups)|
What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, post-ups still make up just more than 10% of his play types and a smidge over 5% of his nightly touches. They’re also, in general, still not the most efficient shot. But this season is all about honing the crevices of his game, diversifying the attack and improving the effectiveness when doing so. Slowly, Giannis is growing more comfortable operating out of the post as a primary scorer, using his height and strength to overpower and out-agile defenders both fun and king size. It also puts him squarely past the dreaded wall, preventing Giannis’s usual stampede from the top of the arc. Show enough consistency, and teams may start to throw more help down, thus creating passing lanes.
Adding to the pantry is what this regular season is all about.
After a slow start for the actual reigning league MVP, Giannis is starting to put a stranglehold back on his position as the clear alpha of this squad. His recent lines have been ludicrous, combining efficiency with brute force on the boards. He became the first Buck since Kareem Abdul-Jabaar to score 35+ in five straight games. This one really shouldn’t be in doubt, but we should give some shine to Donte DiVincenzo for his delightful spurt against the New Orleans Pelicans. Khris could use a boost after getting left out of the All-Star Game, but I think Antetokounmpo’s numbers are simply too overwhelming.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (3 GP: 33.7 pts, 10.7 reb, 4.0 ast, 2.3 blk)
The MVP doing MVP things:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 28, 2021
36 PTS | 14 REB | 5 AST | 4 BLK | 1 STL pic.twitter.com/WhHjVeONos
Khris Middleton (3 GP: 23.3 pts, 5.7 reb, 6.7 ast)
Khris putting up All-Star numbers:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 26, 2021
31 PTS | 7 REB | 6 AST | 58% FG pic.twitter.com/IXjhZIcIyI
Donte DiVincenzo (3 GP: 12.7 pts, 5.7 reb, 4.0 ast, 1.3 stl)
The Big Ragu was saucin' it up:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 26, 2021
24 PTS (career-high) | 9 AST | 7 REB | 2 STL | 1 BLK pic.twitter.com/brf3MMQLuO
Week 10: The Bucks MVP was...
This poll is closed
This poll will close at 8 pm central on Thursday, March 4th.
That’ll do it for the wrap-ups of our first half of the season! We’ll let that Grizzlies game live on its own. Looking forward to another second half of breakdowns and weekly MVP voting.