At the end of last week’s piece, I asked if the Bucks’ Big Three could score even more after combining for 80.8 PPG last week. They certainly beat that mark on Wednesday with 89 between the trio of Giannis, Middleton, and Holiday. While they actually scored 3.2 fewer PPG this week, 77.6 is still a crapload! Prior to Brook Lopez’s and George Hill’s long-awaited returns on Monday, Milwaukee’s reserves were amid a pretty productive stretch. Coach Mike Budenholzer dropped Jordan Nwora from the rotation but kept rolling with Wesley Matthews, Jevon Carter, and Serge Ibaka. Each of them managed to put up even better weeks. It wasn’t all good news on the individual front, though, as Bobby Portis’ offense took a sharp nosedive before recovering somewhat two days ago. That’s two missions aced and one unfulfilled, much like the Bucks’ record this week.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: A (last week: A+)
3 GP, 34.3 MPG, 32.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .516/.125/.732
There certainly was nothing wrong with any of Giannis’ outcomes this week aside from several missed free throws, and once again he appeared very comfortable driving on/through Rudy Gobert. Still, I thought he seemed a bit off against the Kings, mainly due to a few miffed opportunities inside. As per usual, drew plenty of whistles, but he could have been even more aggressive against that mediocre interior defense. One particular missed lay-in appeared to be a much easier dunk. Hassan Whiteside gave him some trouble too, somehow. Nevertheless, it’s silly that Kevin Durant took home Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors last Monday (in the week prior, he scored 14-25-53 over three games to Giannis’ 39-43-31); if he notches a sixth consecutive 30-point game in Minnesota, what exactly more must he do in order to win? Now, let’s get him some better beer.
Khris Middleton: A (last week: A+)
3 GP, 34.8 MPG, 24.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2.7 TPG, 2.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .418/.542/.933
Goodness gracious, what did those nets in Utah and Sacramento do to Middleton or his family? Even after shooting an uncharacteristic 2/10 inside the arc at Chase Center and 3/10 at Golden 1 Center, his exploits outside of it (4/9 and 7/10) make for a comically large gap between his FG% and 3P%. Pretty insane shotmaking overall which takes the sting off his struggles with the Dubs. I did find myself surprised after several of his bricked mid-rangers, shots which usually go down for him. Obviously, the onslaught of treys make it a wash: he’s up to 38% on the year from deep thanks to a 47.9% success rate since the All-Star break.
Jrue Holiday: A (last week: A+)
3 GP, 35.0 MPG, 21.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.7 APG, 3.0 TPG, 3.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .479/.412/.714
That’s 9 steals in the last two games for Holiday, who came up with loose balls or robbed opponents over and over again, particularly when it mattered most. His fourth quarters are now reliably clutch and that will likely come in handy from mid-April onward. Between shutting down Steph Curry while simultaneously doing what he could to contain Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson, it follows that Holiday was pretty quiet offensively at Golden State. He didn’t struggle to the degree of many games last postseason when he was dealing with a dynamic scoring guard every time out, so perhaps that’s a step in the right direction. I have to lop part of a letter grade off for missing back-to-back free throws at Sacramento, though he wasn’t the only Buck with that infraction.
Bobby Portis: C- (last week: A)
3 GP, 26.6 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .385/.090/1.000
Yikes is all I have to say about that shooting line because I sure didn’t think it was that bad. After two pretty scorching weeks from deep, Portis has to pick up the pieces. To his credit, he curtailed his longball attempts a tad and worked inside, including a perfect 5/5 on twos against the Kings. Once again, he took Domas Sabonis’ cookies a few times and guarded him rather well, just as Portis did while Sabonis was a Pacer. Now that Lopez is back with the team, it’s an open question when/if Portis will cede his starting spot to the drop-zone master. While his playing time is undoubtedly safe, a shift back to his usual sixth-man role heightens the importance of his outside shot. He’s gone through these stretches before (in four games prior to the All-Star break, he missed 18 of 21 three-point attempts) and usually shakes them quickly, though.
Grayson Allen: A (last week: A-)
3 GP, 25.0 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.7 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .474/.529/.000
As Allen’s usage settled in, down from its early-season highs, his efficiency remains. That’s a testament to just how well he scored when Milwaukee lacked guys like Middleton and Holiday, but also how well he fits alongside the perimeter-oriented two of the Big Three. To me, he’s answered the question of whether or not he can be effective in a healthy starting lineup with a big yes. If he works alongside Portis, acclimating to Lopez shouldn’t be an issue. Lately, Bud has rolled with a small but defensively-stout quintet featuring Matthews and Carter during clutch situations (with aplomb, I might add). Does that happen in the postseason, though? Pat Connaughton is sure to replace one of them, but like Adam, I would like Bud to give Allen a trial in the coming weeks’ clutch situations.
Serge Ibaka: A (last week: A-)
3 GP, 14.0 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.0 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .647/.400/1.000
After Ibaka didn’t appear in the second half in Utah as Lopez got his first action in months, I worried if he was on the verge of being dropped from the rotation amid a really nice stretch. Perhaps Bud’s decision was matchup-based, but the Bucks’ best chef came right back with 18 solid minutes two nights later. It’s likely his minutes dip as Lopez’s rise, but with how great he’s been in March, I’d like to see Bud continue to make room for him. A backup center who averages 7.3 points, 5.3 boards (his numbers thus far in March), boxes out, plays good defense on any player, plus knocks down jumpers both inside and out is a nice weapon to have.
Wesley Matthews: B (last week: C-)
3 GP, 23.1 MPG, 4.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .333/.400/.667
Entering Monday night, Matthews shot an abysmal 23.8% from the floor and 16.9% from three in the preceding two months. I don’t know if he’s back, but seeing a few arrows flying skyward again feels good for everyone involved. Until Connaughton rejoins the rotation, Matthews will keep seeing time but after that could settle in as a defensive specialist. Every night he gets switched onto opposing bigs and more than holds his own. I actually think that between him and Ibaka, the Bucks could have P.J. Tucker’s defensive contributions covered, albeit by two guys instead of one.
Jevon Carter: A (last week: A-)
3 GP, 19.8 MPG, 5.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.0 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .714/.714/1.000
Astute readers will note that all of Carter’s attempts this week came behind the three-point line. Yet none of those were anywhere near his biggest shots! Of all people, he iced the Utah game at the charity stripe. That’s right, a player who wasn’t even on the Bucks a month ago sealed their first victory in Salt Lake City since 2001. Imagine being told this back in October: not only will the Bucks finally top Utah on the road, but that Jevon Carter will be the one who confirms it! If you want a good laugh, compare his numbers thus far as a Buck with Goran Dragic’s since coming to Brooklyn. Plus Carter can rear-contest, slip through opposing screens, and apply full-court defense as well as any Buck. On defense, he is simply a dog. Maybe this is the peak of Carter’s Milwaukee experience now that Hill is healthy, or maybe he’s exactly what they need to keep the 35-year-old from missing further time. Could he be the better choice for Jeff Teague minutes?
Brook Lopez: B (last week: injured)
2 GP, 15.0 MPG, 4.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .250/.333/.000
Since Lopez has never relied on athleticism (at least not in Milwaukee) or speed, he really didn’t look any different out there in his reappearance. Against the Jazz particularly, we saw his typical brand of rim protection and drop coverage. During just his second minute back on the court, we saw exactly what makes him so effective and made the Bucks such an outstanding defensive unit in years past, a sequence that leads Adam’s poll for Play of the Week. In both contests, he similarly flummoxed multiple drivers and big men down low into missing bunnies, makes we became accustomed to during the past four-plus months as we wistfully awaited his return. It’s great to move him out of the incomplete section below.
George Hill: B (last week: injured)
2 GP, 15.3 MPG, 3.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .400/.667/.750
Hill’s impact is/was never as palpable as Lopez’s, but it was always there on the stat sheet in the form of plus/minus. Though we aren’t seeing that just yet, he provided a nice shot in the arm in his 17 minutes on Wednesday, hitting two timely triples. He committed the same cardinal sin of missing both ends of a trip to the line, as did Holiday (and Giannis) that evening, something that Marques Johnson (nor I) can ever remember occurring. In total, though, he looks no worse for the wear than prior to his neck malady.
Mike Budenholzer: B+ (last week: A)
2-1 W-L, 116.8 ORtg (13th), 116.9 DRtg (18th), -0.1 NetRtg (16th)
Yet again, the defense was a bit messy between shifting schemes and reintroduced personnel, but Bud’s playcalling on that end isn’t the main problem: that would be execution by the players. As the Bucks shift back to their venerated drop coverage, defenders have to remember not to overcommit on drives with Lopez behind them. I liked his ATOs in the Kings matchup, which resuscitated multi-possession leads after conceding the scoring runs that kept their foes in the game. With how well Milwaukee shot the three in the past two games, they papered over some moments where the halfcourt offense stalled.
Incomplete: Pat Connaughton (injured), Jordan Nwora (1 GP, 11 MIN), DeAndre’ Bembry (1 GP, 4 MIN), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (2 GP, 4 MIN), Sandro Mamukelashvili (1 GP, 3 MIN), Lindell Wigginton (DNP)
Pat Connaughton’s comeback from hand surgery is reportedly imminent and right on schedule; as a result, we may see something resembling a playoff rotation in the week ahead. By my count, seven spots in that are accounted for, so who among the rest can claim the next spots in the pecking order? Carter is the one whose recent play encourages me the most. While he’s unlikely to shoot over 70% this week, I’d like to see him maintain a strong offensive output. Conversely, Portis needs to find his stroke again. So too does Lopez, though he gets a longer runway as he reintegrates post-injury. Both had positive moments defensively and if those keep up, Milwaukee’s defense should trend upward. I mentioned Holiday’s two-way efforts when checking high-scoring guards on defense: we know he can shut down any of the league’s best, but can he do that while excelling on the other end? He accomplished this to an extent with De’Aaron Fox, but I’d like to see him prove that against higher-caliber guards. He’ll see lots of time on D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards tomorrow evening, but otherwise Holiday has an easier week ahead before facing Memphis, Philly, and Brooklyn (plus their elite ballhandlers) in succession.
How would you grade the Bucks’ performance this past week?
This poll is closed
What are your individual grades? Let me know in the comments below.