Author’s note: I'm writing this on the afternoon of Sunday, July 11th, 2021. The Bucks are down 0-2 and may or may not be down 0-3 or only down 1-2 by the time this airs.
(Update: They mostly played better in game three! Woo!)
I think the thing that is most frustrating about this, our first trip to the Finals in almost half a century, is the sense that we haven’t seen the team “leave it all out there”. That’s an unfair criticism as I don’t necessarily think seeing players throw their bodies to the floor for loose balls or getting tangled in piles for rebounds are always good indicators of effort. Unfortunately for everyone on the team not named Giannis, though, it is easy to look like you’re sort of coasting when the team’s superstar is laboring to keep you afloat.
The best part about this series has been the fact that Giannis and more importantly Giannis’s game have shown to be effective at this level. In years past he was a wrecking ball, but that same hyper energy could be his undoing, and his skillset wasn’t refined enough to give him numerous avenues to score if his first move was halted. So far, not long removed from a night where we thought the next calendar year was a loss for him, he’s back putting up insane numbers across the board. When he bends over and has to wheeze to catch his breath when a stoppage in play occurs you can only admire him more for the effort.
It’s the contrast that makes everyone else look so relatively bad. Compared to expectations, the only guys who have met (or exceeded) what we’d hoped for are Pat Connaughton, and maybe PJ? Maybe it’s unfair to pass a harsh judgement upon Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday since we’ve only had two games and, in Jrue’s case, there’s a lot of effort spent on the defensive end. They aren’t not trying, I can say that. So far, though, not not trying hasn’t been acceptable.
There is still time to turn things around and right the ship one last time. For their sake and our sanity, I sure hope they do.
Schlitz over glitz: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s loyalty to Milwaukee lands Bucks in NBA Finals (Washington Post)
A story so remarkable, you might as well dive back into it yet again.
The Bucks’ Scoring Has Abandoned Them—Just When They Need It Most (The Ringer)
Essentially everything I wrote in the intro, but with flashy numbers and graphs to back it up. Long story short, we haven’t been good enough.
Milwaukee native turns Bucks fandom into passion project (TMJ4)
The one. The only. Your site co-overlord and mine! Mitchell Maurer is local TV famous, folks.
Milwaukee, We Need Y’all Energy (The Players’ Tribune)
I’ll admit to having been a skeptic of Bobby Portis when he arrived in Milwaukee. He indirectly addresses it in this piece he published in The Players’ Tribune: Not a good defender, guy who had punched his teammate, not much of a playoff track record. Well, here we are in the Finals, and Bobby answered the call in a big way when the team needed him. So for all that, Bobby, I apologize for doubting your ability to help this team, and it’s a fun ride watching you become the fandom’s rallying cry.
Despite 3-point barrage, Suns maintain respect for mid-range shooting (NBA.com)
This is an interesting piece rehashing that now oldest of all NBA strategy discussions about whether there is room for a mid-range shot in the league. As with nearly everything, the answer is almost certainly in the middle (sorry). You needn't give up on the mid-range shot completely as a tool you can use, but for players under a certain caliber it is likely ideal to position them either beyond the arc to maximize their shots or as close to the hoop as possible. In an era where you’ve got one to two major stars on a team and everyone else shuffling in and out constantly, there isn’t much time or incentive to encourage a fresh face to work on something other than what the numbers suggest is the “smartest” way to play.
On top of that, Paul and Booker are making some crazy tough shots. You can only tip your cap in that regard.
After This Weird NBA Season, We Have A Better Idea Of How Much Fans Matter (FiveThirtyEight)
Some fun random information in here for your perusal, like the fact that a home team without any fans in attendance would normally only be good to score a little over a point more than their opponents. Contrast that with teams playing in front of fans and the point scoring advantage boosted to above 2 points a game. It’s small, but when a tight game comes down to just a few points, it all makes a difference.
Bucks assistant Vin Baker lost millions to addiction, found salvation in a Starbucks (LA Times)
I deeply appreciate how open Vin Baker has been about his story. We hear so often about the pressures of professional careers at the highest levels being enough to crack the strongest among us. Baker suffered through that, but has also found his own path towards a personal salvation, and works to help others who suffer from the same burdens. A pleasure to watch him become a moral rock for this team.
Fan Post of the Week
DonVinchi2 (what happened to the first DonVinchi?), come on down! With “Should we even make major trades?” we’re starting to ask some of the hard questions. Another hard question to your hard question: Is there any team that would be buying what we’d be out there trying to sell? You hope in the collective ability of NBA front offices to believe that they can fix a guy and get something better out of him, I suppose.
Know Your Enemy
- Phoenix Suns - Bright Side of the Sun - Final Score: Bucks slap the Suns 120-100, get first win of NBA Finals
No, it isn’t fair of me to dig in to the post-game article of their first loss of the series for content, but I’m petty. Plus, if you want Suns optimism, the games one and two threads are all there too!
The Social Media Section
Yeah, we’re getting the band back together
#FearTheDeer https://t.co/IarC1hB0WV— Carlos Delfino (@cabezadelfino) July 6, 2021
I should note that this is the first post on Bryn’s Insta since he joined the Bucks
POV: You’re a rookie who is just there to have a good time
Here’s a man totally relaxed in the knowledge that he gets a ring if the Bucks win even if he is on the other side of the planet
Bobby follows the rules to a T
Covid protocols https://t.co/ePAu4MlbkZ— Bobby BP Portis (@BPortistime) July 10, 2021
Marques & Giannis & Jim Paschke buddy cop movie. Now.
Giannis’ perspective on sacrificing for the good of the team. (Christopher Walken voice from True Romance) I Love Dis Guy… pic.twitter.com/R59IlEkh85— Elder Marques Johnson (@olskool888) July 9, 2021
It sure is
basketball is amazing pic.twitter.com/jeRmAnYxZH— RidiculousCage (@ridiculouscage) July 8, 2021
Yay, more free-throw discourse
Down for the count? Giannis is embracing taunts at the free throw line. #bucks #NBAFinals #suns https://t.co/7kvJS9mSAc @TheUndefeated— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) July 7, 2021
You all already know the deal: Either the season is over this week, or it isn’t. So here’s the schedule:
Game four is Wednesday night in Milwaukee, game five Saturday in Phoenix.
Not much else to say. Just go out and win some more.