It’s a little staggering how much one loss can throw us off our axis as Milwaukee Bucks fans. I savored the Philly wins, but didn’t bask in that much glory. In fact, I focused exponentially more on the fact Milwaukee missed an opportunity to test themselves against a full-throated 76ers squad than just enjoy the smackdown they laid on an elite East team. By the time the Atlanta Hawks meltdown came around, I couldn’t help but feel low. For much of this season I’ve been able to avoid those kind of wild swings, but as the postseason draws nearer, I find my frustrated inner fandom arising more and more.
I can’t blame folks for growing increasingly annoyed, especially during close losses, but once more I’m trying to tell myself to enjoy things in the moment rather than fret too much about the future. If the postseason really is vastly different from the regular season, maybe all those pieces last week about the Bucks being exactly where they want to be in the three seed will prove prophetic. Then again, there’s always a Donte DiVincenzo over-helping sequence to calm that twinge of excitement. After a weird year, I’m thankful we’ve had far more wins to celebrate this season than losses to dissect. Let’s wrap-up.
The Week That Was
- Milwaukee 124, Philadelphia 117 (Bucks Earn the Win vs. Sixers)
- Milwaukee 132, Philadelphia 94 (Bucks Clobber Sixers)
- Milwaukee 104, Atlanta 111 (Bucks Blow Late Lead against Hawks)
- Milwaukee 114, Charlotte 104 (Bucks Receive a Close Buzz)
The Philly wins were sweet. Even against a shorthanded squad, beating an Eastern Conference rival leaves a delightful taste in our mouths, and a bloodied one in theirs. The first matchup may not have featured Embiid for the final period, but the Bucks won that one wire-to-wire. The opening frames of that contest provided some of the prettiest offensive basketball we’ve seen all year. The Saturday game was an avalanche. The Sixers didn’t have a chance to hold up across 48 minutes, and they fell apart around the 30-minute mark or so as Giannis Antetokounmpo took a cleaver to their zone coverage.
And then we have the Atlanta game. Sigh. Nobody wanted yet another fourth quarter falling apart, but the fact it had to come at the hands of Bogdan Bogdanovic made it all the more annoying. But, it is worth point out that he went 7-19 and 3-10 from deep the next night against Detroit in a losing effort. Yes, the Bucks defense had plenty to do with their collapse, but there was some luck involved. Bogdanovic isn’t a volcano every night either. Doesn’t make it suck less, but maybe it calms the ache a bit.
As for Charlotte, while frustrating at times, Milwaukee still came away with a victory on a night when they shot just 25.7% from deep, 9-35. Neither Khris Middleton (7-15) nor Jrue Holiday (6-15) were particularly efficient, and the Bucks fouled above their league-leading low rate. All of those elements could typically lead to a loss, even against lesser competition, and yet they won. I’ll take it.
Nothing flashy this week on opening sets, although the second of the Philly matchups featured some creative cutting, passing and driving by the Bucks before Jrue Holiday turned it over. But Holiday was the one who led the charge to open these games, hitting a jumper in the first Philly game, and positioning himself in an advantageous spot in the paint in the Atlanta contest.
As I said before, nothing fancy here. We get a fairly standard setup to start, with DiVincenzo racing to the corner and Giannis/Middleton doing a little two-step at the right elbow before Khris sets up shop in the right corner as a spacer. Holiday gets things flowing with a dish to Giannis where he can survey the court from just inside the arc.
Lopez, as he so often does in these opening sets, is already readying his hips to open up and set a screen on Holiday’s man, Bogdanovic. At that point, it’s incumbent upon Holiday to run the correct route and get the Serbian to slam into Lopez’s body. Afterwards, the whole paint opens up with John Collins having to recover back to Lopez, nobody tagging Holiday and perimeter defenders having to respect the shooting of DiVincenzo and Middleton. The second Collins goes back to help on Lopez, Giannis recognizes it and makes the pass.
It’s just pitch and catch at that point, as Holiday gathers himself underneath the bucket and forces up a finish under the rim. I always enjoy Jrue’s patience beneath the basket. He’s never in a hurry, consistently uses his strength to create space and has some dandy magic with that left hand of his. Nothing magical about this set, but nice to see the Bucks push baskets Holiday’s way to start.
On the StruggleBucks
I needed a little optimism after that Hawks loss, so I broke down how Giannis has evolved as a passer, including increased assist numbers on fewer dishes. More purpose, less pointless passing. You can read that full breakdown here.
We’re closing in on the season’s end, and there aren’t too many weekly MVP awards left to give out this year. Giannis is still leading across the board, but Khris Middleton (understandably) is lagging behind the impact Jrue Holiday has brought to this team. Let’s see where it stands after this week.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (4 GP: 27.8 pts, 14.0 reb, 6.3 ast, 2.0 stl, 1.3 blk)
The Best of The Greek Freak vs. Philly:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 23, 2021
27 PTS | 16 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK pic.twitter.com/Fl2uIXFg5R
Khris Middleton (4 GP: 17.0 pts, 3.5 reb, 3.5 ast, 1.0 stl)
Khris set the tone from the start:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 23, 2021
24 PTS | 5 AST | 4/7 3FG pic.twitter.com/BjXUc7U8bq
Jrue Holiday (4 GP: 13.8 pts, 5.5 reb, 8.0 ast, 1.8 stl)
A double-double for Jrue tonight:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 26, 2021
19 PTS | 11 AST | 5 REB | 2 STL pic.twitter.com/XAV15gAd6O
Week 17: The Bucks MVP was...
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That’ll do it for this week’s wrap-up. Only two more renditions of this series to go before the postseason arrives!