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Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

Well that was a glorious stretch of games

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of the year again when my phone alerts me to an egregious amount of screen time and every work call means another chance to miss whatever silly thing Sacramento has done now. Trade deadline szn is here, and while I’m pretty muted over the Milwaukee Bucks chances to pull off anything of real import, I still annoyingly have found myself swept up in the hopes, dreams and dizzying level of rumors flying around. Miss me with Dennis Schroder please, but it’s gotta be one heck of a time to be Donte DiVincenzo right now. Then again, it doesn’t get much worse than actually being traded, and having said trade rescinded, so what does he have to lose at this point. Anyway, the Bucks will likely go quietly into the night on Thursday, but at least they’ve cranked up the decibels on the court this past week. Let’s wrap-up.

The Week That Was

The injury gods have paved a smooth pathway for Milwaukee on this road trip, none more so than a Saturday night shellacking of the Portland Trailblazers without Dame and a number of other supporting cast. They blazed on out of relevancy this season with Tuesday’s CJ McCollum trade anyway. Down in LA, Milwaukee never had a chance to enjoy the nightlife due to a B2B, which might’ve given them the energy they needed to power past the Kawhi/PG-less Clippers late in that game. That was just a preamble to what was perhaps the most glorious 30 minute stretch of Bucks basketball all season as Giannis laid the Lakers to waste on National TV. 44 points on 20 shots. Eye-popping stuff, even with the Lakers trying to make it a game late.

Weekly Wondering

With the All-Star Break nearly here, and Jrue Holiday as the lone member of the Bucks Big Three who won’t be trekking to Cleveland for a lovely February weekend, I started pondering Milwaukee’s triumvirate. One of the prevailing thoughts from last year’s Playoffs was, “why can’t the Bucks get all three of these guys going at the same time?” We saw what that looked like during the perfect storm Game Five in Phoenix, when the Bucks outshot their expected field goal percentage by a significant margin and all three core players bounded the team to a victory.

Of late, we’ve seen up-and-down games from both Middleton and Holiday, while Giannis is on one of the more prolific scoring runs in Bucks history at the moment. So I got curious just how often all three of them actually “got going” within the same 48 minutes. First, I have to define what “got going” means though. To start, I’ve gone super simplistic to see how often all three of them scored at least their season average (rounded down the closest whole number). That might be a tad stingy since, by definition, an average is determined by highs and lows, but I wanted to start somewhere. For reference, here are the points/game average for each player the past two years.

Big Three Per-Game Averages

Player 2021-22 2020-21 Playoffs 2020-21 Regular Season
Player 2021-22 2020-21 Playoffs 2020-21 Regular Season
Jrue Pts/Game 18 17.3 17.7
Jrue Ast/Game 6.6 8.7 6.1
Khris Pts/Game 19.4 23.6 20.4
Khris Ast/Game 5.3 5.1 5.4
Giannis Pts/Game 28.9 30.2 28.1
GIannis Ast/Game 5.9 5.1 5.9

Stats exclude Tuesday’s game vs. Lakers

Using purely points as the baseline, here’s how often the Big Three hit at least their scoring average all in the same game over that same timeframe.

Big 3 Hit Pts. Average in Same Game

Season Games Played Games All Hit Scoring Avg. % Big Three "Got Going"
Season Games Played Games All Hit Scoring Avg. % Big Three "Got Going"
2021-22 27 3 11.11%
2020-21 Playoffs 21 3 14.29%
2020-21 50 10 20.00%

Stats exclude Tuesday’s game vs. Lakers

That’s not all that often. But, as I said before, my criteria is likely a bit flawed given the very nature of averages. Additionally, points obviously aren’t everything to a team’s offense, given all three of them fancy themselves playmakers. So, let’s add in hitting a player’s assist average for the season as another way to qualify they “got going” in a game. So, with that far more lenient application of the rule, here’s how it shakes out.

Big 3 Hit Pts. or Ast. Average in Same Game

Season Games Played Games All Hit Scoring or Ast. Avg. % Big Three "Got Going"
Season Games Played Games All Hit Scoring or Ast. Avg. % Big Three "Got Going"
2021-22 27 10 37.04%
2020-21 Playoffs 21 12 57.14%
2020-21 50 21 42.00%

Stats exclude Tuesday’s game vs. Lakers

That’s better, although I’m not sure it’s still totally representative of what we want. I’d welcome suggestions in the comments of alternative methods to measure how players “get going” in this context.

Still, I don’t think this problem is necessarily exclusive to the Bucks. By nature, there’s only one ball to go around and occasionally it’s going to be one player’s night over the other. That’s triply true in the regular season when some players may get pulled in blowouts, sleepwalk through a game or simply not play as much given the rigors are far less than the postseason. Plus, ball distribution problems among a big three goes all the way back to the Heatles days, but the Bucks makeup is a little different in that they have a clear A, and two interchangeable B’s. Miami, and other Big Threes, might have a clear A (LeBron), B (Wade) and C (Bosh) star hierarchy.

On top of that, all three of Milwaukee’s players consider themselves both scorers and creators. Holiday is ostensibly the point guard, but they run plenty of PnR with both Giannis and Khris too. Working into games isn’t as simple as Holiday taking his role as a floor commander, Khris spacing the floor and whirling around looking to get up shots and Giannis setting picks and diving to the rim. Holiday wants to drive to create, but also girds himself up on defense and finds his offensive flow typically by bullying guards or dancing for stepbacks on the perimeter. Middleton wants to find his spots at the elbows and ease his way into the creation game with a few pick-and-rolls. Giannis will blast past defenders, back them down, hurry helter-skelter in transition and try to drive from atop the perimeter more often than he might be setting picks.

I’d be fascinated to hear the internal discussions about how all three of them think they best work together, but they’re certainly fortunate to have multi-faceted players at point guard, wing and center. Even if it doesn’t always translate to dynamic scoring nights, each of them will typically find ways to impact the game plenty in their own way. That sort of “get going” has led them to a sterling record when the big three all share the court this season.

Play of the Week

Not quite as many delectable X’s and O’s in this entry’s selection, but there’s a bat of nostalgia alongside some lockdown defense and, of course, a passing sequence I enjoyed. Here’s what caught my eye this past week.

Grayson D to Pumpfake Central

This one will never make any highlight reel, but I found it notable for two reasons. One, it features Grayson Allen working off a few switches and playing real standout defense guarding CJ McCollum and forcing him into a rough shot with the baseline as an extra defender. McCollum was having solid success penetrating throughout that game, even as his outside shot abandoned him, and defensive reels from Allen are worth monitoring for their application come Playoff time.

On the other end, it’s just not all that often I get to see two such cavalier pumpfakes from players on successive touches of the ball. Bobby’s pumpfakes throws the recovering Blazers off their spots, and even once they’re set, Holiday gets one more pumpfake and stepback in for good measure on the triple past Jusuf Nurkic.

The Moose Leaks Loose

I try not to put nostalgia trips too often in here, but there was something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue about this blast from the past meeting modern Bucks basketball. What could be sweeter than a slimmed down Moose leaking out and delivering a tough lay-in in transition. These are the moments regular season games in February are made for.

Pat, Khris, Pat, Splash

This one is a doozy, but it starts with spacers on the right and a brilliant pass from Jrue Holiday. He snakes along the baseline following a screen from Pat, and I have no idea how his arm Gumby’d at that angle, and the strength required to sling it to Connaughton atop the key as all five defenders collapse on Holiday. Phew. Pat smartly finds Middleton on the left wing, who goes up like he’s angling to shoot but instead whirls it back to Connaughton. Pat uses his newfound high catch-and-release shot this season for the jumper.

Kaiju Block

I respect Anthony Davis as much as the next guy, but this is unbelievably smothering defense from Giannis. Not only goes he disrupt his backdown rhythm by knocking the ball loose, but he then proceeds to stick on him like glue and block the shot at its apex.

All right, that’ll do it for another wrap-up. Enjoy the upcoming trade deadline and that juicy Thursday night matchup with the Suns. Vote for your preferred play in the poll below!

Poll

Feb. 9: The Play of the week is...

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Grayson D to Pumpfake Central
    (17 votes)
  • 6%
    The Moose Leaks Loose
    (9 votes)
  • 14%
    Pat, Khris, Pat, Splash
    (19 votes)
  • 66%
    Kaiju Block
    (90 votes)
135 votes total Vote Now