A quick one this week because 1) I’m on vacation in the Milwaukee area for the first time in nearly a year to see family and 2) Well, you’re all aware of the stakes going into tonight. It’s okay to feel a bit aggrieved with the way the Bucks played Saturday night, especially given that James Harden was taken off the court about a minute into play. A golden opportunity presented itself and the Bucks... didn’t do a whole bunch with it. But, hey, we’ve all watched this team for seven months. We’re well aware of their ability to inexplicably drop the ball against anyone, so falling short against a short-handed Nets squad isn’t a mind-bending result.
What matters most is how the Bucks bounce back tonight. James Harden has already been ruled out with hamstring issues, so the trick will be how Milwaukee (from coach Mike Budenholzer on down) responds tonight. Can they craft a feasible game plan, and, more importantly, can they stick to it? Or will the pressure of the moment, the pressure of expectations now they’re go-ahead favorites, prove too much? Championship teams are forged in the fires of the rounds the precede the Finals. Falling short once isn’t a disaster, but you’ve got to go out and grab the opportunity the universe has given you.
Well... based on Saturday night, maybe not so much. However, it is comical that the Bucks only switched on screens 299 times last season while switching a whopping 1,010. That’s over triple the number of screen switches! Throw in a quintupling of zone possessions, and you’ll begin to have the numbers that back up the experiments we’ve seen this year.
The question that remains is how far that experimentation can take them. It’ll all be for naught if they opt to fall back into the zone-drop base heavier than any other scheme they’ve developed.
If you’re looking for a pretty definitive piece sizing up how Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, stars whose basketballing similarities start and end with their height, this is the one.
The Milwaukee Bucks have a two-time MVP and a closer — and they might not be the same player (ESPN+ - Subscription required)
And that’s okay! Giannis closes games by scoring 85-90% of the team’s points in the fourth quarter and then deferring to a skilled teammate who can create a shot or has a decent chance at making a tough shot when the time calls. Just, you know, run something other than the Khris-sprints-into-the-corner-and-six-defenders inbounds play and we can keep this thing working.
A big congrats to Jrue for having won the Joe Dumars Trophy as voted on by his peers in the NBA. It is one thing to go out and play tough on both ends of the floor each night, but a wholly different thing to do it while also garnering the respect of your opponents as someone who plays with the right sportsmanlike mentality.
He’s back and more historically-minded than ever: it’s retired janitor with “Achilles Heel”, a reassuring (to me) note that if this Nets team were to go all the way, they’d have the worst league defensive rating ranking (say that five times fast) of any team in the past 20 years.
Just, you know, have to then do that thing called scoring against them. Oh, and hope that Blake Griffen the starter isn’t the guy who single-handedly swings a series in their favor. What a pain that would be.
Know Your Enemy
Know Your Enemy by getting to Know Your Enemy? Yes, a bit of a convoluted pick, I must admit, but when Kyle Carr shows up across the internet, we have to highlight it. That’s literally the first rule in the “Brew Hoop Blogboi Handbook”.
And here’s a deep film dive on how the Nets can guard Giannis if you’re looking for non-Kyle content. Not that you should be looking for non-Kyle content. Remember the handbook!
The Social Media Section
I didn’t include this one in the article rundown, but that’s because you should already have an Athletic subscription and reading this stuff from Eric Nehm
During a March game, Brook Lopez argued incessantly with Mike Budenholzer for 10 minutes.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) June 2, 2021
The next day, Budenholzer called it "one of my absolute favorite things about coaching the Bucks."
On the odd couple that drives the Bucks defense at @TheAthletic:https://t.co/Pd9Woe215l
The Sir Sid-Marques Johnson connection makes for a great highlight reel
Running the Point Forward down the stretch. This was my last year with @bucks. Traded to the Clippers before the start of the ‘84-‘85 season. As @sidneymoncrief_ told me, basketball was never the same again... https://t.co/c2oaDVbpSG— Elder Marques Johnson (@olskool888) June 5, 2021
Jason Kidd giveth (????), Jason Kidd taketh
Lakers assistant Jason Kidd has withdrawn his name from consideration for Portland’s head coaching vacancy, Kidd tells ESPN. “Portland’s a first-class organization and will have great candidates…but I’ve decided not to be one of them.” https://t.co/UQgZ0YNxv5— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 6, 2021
He’s the only hot take artist I need
The Bucks have to win in order to stop this insanity
Kyrie Irving: “We uniting the whole world with this championship run, so I hope everybody is with us. We uniting the whole world with this run. Stick with us baby.” (@YESNetwork postgame interview with @Grady)— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) June 2, 2021
This one is to help explain the Midwest to our global readers, in case you’re wondering why we need the Timberwolves to join the Central Division. They simply belong.
because there's a lot of Midwest discourse today I thought I would give you all a quick geography lesson pic.twitter.com/2foV2tBlwu— ghost denier (@coronarycommie) June 1, 2021
Goes and wins multiple MVPs, watches Netflix until he falls asleep on the couch
In this house, we don't talk about basketball. pic.twitter.com/zEBG51NMkf— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 1, 2021
Y’all know the drill. Game two is tonight, game three (which I will be in attendance for!) is Thursday, game four is on Sunday. With some luck, a few fervent prayers, and the team playing well, we’ll have more games to talk about past this coming weekend.
But we’ve got to take one of these three to make that a reality. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, all that good stuff.