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Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

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Bidding adieu to the regular season

NBA: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It’s our final installment of the weekly Wednesday wrap-up, and the Milwaukee Bucks couldn’t have picked a less inspirational way to send it out. Much love to the waning moments of the season for delivering some of the least defensible defensive performances. As the Playoffs beckon, I am looking forward to freeing myself from the herky-jerky, unrelenting nature of this regular season. Stuffed like a brat into a hot dog bun, it was tough to not feel the weight of 72 games in 5.5 months time. It wasn’t so much the distribution of games, which, in fairness, wasn’t that far off from a regular allotment of games versus time. It was really the context in which we were all forced to sit through them. The botched Bogdanovic souring Bucks fans before Adam Silver said “Go,” the sudden start to cash in on Christmas Day numbers, the insistence on holding an All-Star Game no one really wanted, “this. league.” turning into “this league” with injuries piling atop one another.

In truth, the fact I couldn’t enjoy the best collection of top-level talent the Bucks have had in my lifetime tells me all I need to know about this year: it was all a bit much. Like the players, my excitement and tolerance for late season basketball has waned more than usual with the Playoffs afoot. Finally, in a week’s time, we’ll start arriving at answers for the questions that have washed over this roster, coaching staff and front office all year long. The Miami collapse has lingered like a foul stench over this franchise all year long. I, for one, am tired of holding my nose. Let’s get a whiff of something new.

The Week That Was

The number of fouls in the Wizards game made it feel like a stop-motion experience. The fact that it was followed up by that “hanging by a string” roster that Houston ran out, it was a little annoying that was even competitive. At least they got wins.

Now ‘bout those Spurs. I’ve never seen Bud try so many defenses in one game. Heck, in that fourth Q, I felt like we were back in the Jason Kidd days with all the pressure he was having his players apply out on the perimeter. Pop and San Antonio carved them up from the midrange, where Milwaukee has been sneaky awful this season (ranked 4th worst among opponent midrange percentage, per Cleaning The Glass) after rating third best last year. The Spurs got comfortable, they got hot, it never stopped. Milwaukee took care of Orlando.

Bud’s Best

As I said in my recap of the Spurs game, I was thoroughly impressed by the array of offense drawn up for Khris Middleton in that first quarter. Pull-ups, curls, off screens, turnarounds, he was flashing the full toolset in a healthy way with the postseason coming soon. That level of aggression started from the very first play, when a bevy of options that resulted in Giannis utilizing the left elbow as a distribution point to deliver Middleton an open triple.

To start, we get Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo spacing on the sides, with Brook Lopez shifting from the right nail over to the left wing using Giannis’ massive frame as a way to send Poeltl around the long way.

At this point, it’s Tic-Tac-Toe with the big three, with Holiday starting his own action to backscreen Keldon Johnson so Giannis can create an easier target for Lopez to deliver the entry pass. Khris kinda just hops into the fray at the free throw line, creating a jumble.

Once Giannis has the ball to survey the floor, Holiday whirls his trot into a 180, and screams through the rim to the lane with Middleton setting a butt screen (not a real term). At this point, Giannis could presumably loft a pass to DiVincenzo, whose man has helped down to tag Holiday. Holiday’s man, Dejounte Murray is stuck on Khris’s butt, and Lonnie Walker is digging down to guard against the bounce pass to Holiday. Just when Murray switches to help on DiVincenzo, Khris flees the free throw line and finds himself wide open on the left arc for a triple. Lopez helps him out by getting his body just enough in front of Poeltl to give Khris even more time.

Middleton was only open because Walker switched onto Holiday, leaving DeRozan in no man’s land guarding no one. It’s true, other teams can botch switches too.

On the StruggleBucks

We all know the struggleBuck was this last week. We saw the defensive metrics after those abominable performances against Washington, Houston and San Antonio in quick succession. Against some of the league’s weaker offenses, that certainly didn’t instill confidence in Bucks fans. We all know the Bucks have rated out fairly well on the season overall. They’re in the top ten in offensive rating and their defensive rating has creeped up to hover around top ten for some time now, even if it’s not at last year’s world-destroying level.

Kane Pitman gave a thorough breakdown of the recent issues on Locked on Bucks this week (Having trouble locating the episode link for some reason, but it’s the May 11th show!), mentioning the bevy of teams that have hit 19+ 3-pointers on the Bucks this season. Many of them included some of the league’s worst teams.

That had me wondering how the team did overall defensively against the different tiers of the league. Here’s a breakdown of Milwaukee’s points per 100 possessions allowed, and where that ranks in the league, against the top, middle and bottom ten offensive rated teams in the league, per Cleaning The Glass.

Bucks Points/100 Poss. Allowed

Category Bucks PPP Allowed League Avg. PPP Allowed Bucks Rank
Category Bucks PPP Allowed League Avg. PPP Allowed Bucks Rank
Vs. All Teams 112.2 112.8 11
Vs. Top Ten Offenses 117.4 117.4 16
Vs. Middle Ten Offenses 111.3 112.6 7
Vs. Bottom Ten Offenses 108.3 108.5 17

It’s nothing revelatory, painting Milwaukee’s defense as the slightly above outfit that we’ve known they have been all year as they work through various new schemes on a night-to-night basis. The only subgroup in which they’ve allowed fewer points than league average is the middle ten offenses though, and even that isn’t by a massive degree. The real kicker here is that the data backs up some of the eye test we’ve seen; the Bucks may have been beating lesser offensive opponents this year, but they assuredly haven’t been given their most sterling defensive efforts in those games.

For those curious, the top ten offenses on Cleaning The Glass: Brooklyn, Clippers, Portland, Utah, Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Dallas, Atlanta, Boston. So, a fairly solid sample of the league’s better teams, albeit missing Philly and LA.

Let’s take a look at this same defensive data when compared against teams ranked by point differential per 100 possessions, which is a better indicator of a team’s overall might.

Points/100 poss. Allowed by opp. Point Differential

Category Bucks PPP Allowed League Avg. PPP Allowed Bucks Rank
Category Bucks PPP Allowed League Avg. PPP Allowed Bucks Rank
Vs. All Teams 112.2 112.8 11
Vs. Top Ten Point Diff. 113.7 116 8
Vs. Middle Ten Point Diff. 114.4 113.4 17
Vs. Bottom Ten Point Diff. 108.2 109 14

The top ten group here comprises Utah, Clippers, Phoenix, Denver, Milwaukee, Philly, Brooklyn, Lakers, Dallas and New York. What this tells me is that Milwaukee, for all our grumbling, has generally been solid against the best teams even if they’re only 10-11 in those contests against the elite. They’re defending better than league average against the elite, and worse than average against the bottom 20 teams. The Spurs game assuredly brought back some concerning trends we’ve seen all season, the kinds of gaps and issues smart teams can exploit. But, even if the numbers aren’t gaudy, both of those Nets defensive performances were some of the best this team has looked all year on that end. There are assuredly flaws with this team, but I just can’t work myself into a lather from results against the Wizards, Rockets and Spurs when there are such recent samples against opponents more indicative of who Milwaukee will face come Playoff time. I’m curious how other commenters viewed those games.

Weekly MVP

We’ve got all our usual candidates in the mix for the final time this season, even if none of them put forth the kind of performances that will be written about in Bucks lore. Still, in our final weekly MVP ranking of the season, we’ll see who will come out on top one last time. Thanks to everyone for voting along throughout the season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (4 GP: 23.8 pts, 8.8 reb, 6.0 ast, 1.3 stl, 0.8 blk)

Khris Middleton (3 GP: 19.0 pts, 5.3 reb, 4.3 ast)

Jrue Holiday (4 GP: 21.0 pts, 3.8 reb, 5.5 ast, 1.0 stl, 0.8 blk)

Poll

Week 19: The Bucks MVP was...

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Giannis Antetokounmpo
    (19 votes)
  • 45%
    Jrue Holiday
    (20 votes)
  • 6%
    Khris Middleton
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    Other
    (2 votes)
44 votes total Vote Now

This poll will close at noon on Thursday, May 14.


I want to take a beat and thank everyone for following along with this new feature all year. I’ve enjoyed recapping the season this way and trying to find new pieces to analyze each week challenged me to watch each game a bit more intently. I’m sure I’ll come up with some sort of in-depth way to analyze the team’s postseason efforts, but I’m putting this feature on ice until the next regular season. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and be sure to let me know in the comments any suggestions you have for what to include, exclude or change if I bring this back next year.