Because, if we’re being honest right now, there have been multiple games over the last two weeks where the biggest thing missing was effort. No hustle, no desire, and most worryingly, no purpose.
“They played harder. They made shots. We did not make shots that we usually make tonight. But overall, I thought they gave more effort, and I think that’s the issue. It’s not the non-shot-making; it’s the effort. We’ll pick it up on Sunday, for sure…There are no excuses…We’re a veteran team, we’re trying to win a championship here, so there are no excuses. They outplayed us tonight.”
Succinct summary of the Milwaukee Bucks recently? Or plagiarized from our friends over at CelticsBlog?
The NBA season is long, unforgiving, meandering, meaningless and crushing all at the same time. For championship hopefuls like our Milwaukee Bucks, a four-game losing streak (the second-longest of Bud’s tenure) is more than enough to have hordes at the Cluckery’s gates, screaming like Chicken Little.
And right now, I get feeling frustrated! Losing to Chicago was the turd atop the swirly sundae this team found itself in after falling flat to close out the road trip. If the losing itself doesn’t flat out bother you, the way it’s happening is equally as infuriating. Sloppy turnovers. Lackadaisical off-ball defense creeping back in. Giannis playing too much hero-ball.
Add on the fact that Khris “Key to Beating Boston” Middleton came back from injury, played well, shot horrifically twice, and is now out again. Well, even the wintry Wisconsin air last week felt a tad warm compared to the frigid feeling around this team right now.
Will beating the likes of Washington, Charlotte or Knicks in the coming weeks cement our belief in the long-term hopes of this team? No, but it sure as hell makes for more fun than what we’ve endured lately.
Re-integrating a 35-year-old Aussie coming off an ACL tear is much more palatable if it also comes with a side of winning. Could they have waited until this stretch of games to let Ingles start to cook? If they do, it may color our perception of him differently right now.
Middleton bricking jumpers and heading to the injury list so soon after coming back looks bad in any context, but it was easier to paper over when the team still sat atop the standings.
For anyone taking the longer view, there are I’ll be watching with this team over the coming months:
- Do they feel content with their current wing rotation against the Boston Celtics?
- Is the recent defensive dip due to lack of execution in the new scheme, teams finding ways to exploit it, or a combination of both?
- Can Giannis re-find his offensive rhythm to carry the team efficiently?
- Will Khris and Joe Ingles actually provide enough playmaking juice for the team to avoid stagnant offensive spells come the postseason?
I could go on and on, but right now, obviously, the answers to these questions look grim. And the time to answer any personnel questions is dwindling with the trade deadline on February 9.
And despite all of this frustration, I still circle back to that quote at the top and scroll through our friends at other SBNation sites.
- At DenverStiffs, they pondered on December 15 whether it was sustainable to keep winning with such a poor defense. A week later, signs of life on that end of the floor were found.
- At CelticsBlog, that article about Joe Mazzula was one of several surrounding the Celtics losing ways just a few days before they waxed the Bucks. Now, there’s a different tune.
- At NetsDaily, well, I don’t even need to tell you what it looked like over there a month or two ago.
Seasons drag on for every team. It’s easy to get swept up in the short-term narrative of a losing streak.
Playoff series drag on. It’s easy to get swept up in the doom-and-gloom of a single loss when each one looms so large.
This team is clearly out of sorts, with plenty of worthwhile questions worth monitoring moving forward. But narratives change quickly in an 82-game season. The last time Bud lost this many games in 2021, they were coming off back-to-back losses against Toronto, dropping their fifth straight, and putting them at 16-13 on the season. What came next?
Winning 13 of their next 14. And we all know how that year ended.
We won’t know this team’s fate for months, but we can see how they respond starting with Friday’s game against Minnesota. Winning by 20 won’t automatically mean they’re heading to the Finals just like losing by 20 won’t mean it’s blow-it-up time.
All that being said...would it be so bad to send the year off on a winning note Bucks?