Is there such a thing as an important week in the NBA’s regular season? If there is, I think this one we’re coming up on would qualify as the most crucial the Bucks have had since the year began.
Two things make it so: First, the seeding in the East. My mind was made up a long time ago that, since we’re already this close, we might as well swing for the conference’s top seed while we’re here. Playing for a particular seed in hopes of specific matchups is tempting both fate and utter chaos, so why not throw caution to the wind and secure the sole sure-fire advantage a top team gets in playoff-long home court advantage? Milwaukee is in a virtual four-way tie for number one with Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami and we play two of the four teams in the remaining six games. The time to win is now.
Second, our reconstituted rotation could use a series of strong challenges to work itself into a proper lather. All four opponents this week are playoff-bound at worst, and contenders at best. The training staff have to OK allowing everyone to play, but four consecutive games in a row with the entire starting lineup and rotation available will give us a true measure of how quickly this project can come together.
Knowing my luck, Khris will sit tomorrow night after overstretching, Jrue will miss Thursday because he comically slipped on a banana, and Giannis will rest against the Clippers since it’ll be the second game of a back-to-back. Maybe winning it all after playing literally 1 game with the entire team healthy can be the next accolade Milwaukee collects.
See if you guys can open this one. I hadn’t logged into my ESPN+ account and was able to read, so maybe you can too.
It can be easy to lose track of Milwaukee’s gradual growth. After Saturday’s loss to the Grizzlies, they’ve gone 10-4 since the All-Star break with those losses coming at Golden State, at Minnesota, at Memphis, and versus Brooklyn (the last being a very close affair indeed). Giannis being so good right now will cover a lot of ground for the Bucks, and locking in the newest reinforcements should help bolster confidence about how far they can go.
A new week with very little movement at the top of the MVP leaderboards. Should the Bucks win this final sprint to the top of the East over the likes of a streaking Boston squad and the Sixers, I’d actually feel very optimistic about Giannis’s chances at a third MVP trophy. His numbers are doing plenty of talking on their own as it is.
Mandatory Milwaukee: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee ambassador (Milwaukee Record)
And if winning a ton of games and routinely scoring 30+ points a night isn’t enough for the voters, how about being an always-beaming ambassador for the city of Milwaukee? With a lot of guys, I’d watch a clip like this and assume they’re joshing around. With Giannis, the truth at the heart of his saying “our beach” is just another example of how intertwined he considers himself with the area. It’s a beautiful, if small, thing.
Author’s edit: I belatedly realized that I posted this Giannis clip last week. Oh well, double dip on some positivity this Monday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo may not be the NBA MVP favorite, but here’s why he’s by far the best value on the board (CBS Sports)
More MVP talk with a good bit of digging at what sorts of criteria typically go in to who wins the award. As I said in the intro to last week’s MMMR, with competition this stiff it’d be no shame to come up short for any of these candidates. It’s simply that close.
The Ringer’s 2022 NBA Draft Guide (The Ringer)
Staff compatriot Van Fayaz has reminded me that the Bucks have to make a first-round pick this year because of the Stepien Rule which means draft prep might actually mean something this year. We’ll have plenty of time to do some more looking after the playoffs when we have our draft slot in stone, but The Ringer’s annual Draft Guide is always a great place to start getting to know some of the names and faces who’ll be coming into the league next season.
Fan Post of the Week
Report: It is all quiet on the Fan Post Front.
Know Your Enemy
- Philadelphia 76ers - Liberty Ballers - The Sixers, playoff seeds and next steps
Since the Sixers sit alongside the Bucks (and what feels like 10 other teams) about a half game or two out of the East’s top seed, their fans are working on the same calculus we are with regards to rest, winning, chemistry, seeding, and all sorts of other factors. As most of these teams have missed guys for long stretches of the season, I’d assume more minutes together on the floor trumps late-season rest, but I’m probably assuming wrong.
- Brooklyn Nets - Nets Daily - With Kyrie Irving full-time and Ben Simmons getting better, how scary will hours be?
This is a pretty optimistic outlook on the Nets end-of-season, if you ask me. Irving getting cleared to play home games is big, don’t get me wrong, but Simmons remains a non-entity whose back issues could likely flare up again in the playoffs, Joe Harris is gone for the year, and Steve Nash doesn’t seem a brilliant coach to tape together a winning formula with the pieces at hand. But, KD and Kyrie can get you quite a ways, I guess.
- Los Angeles Clippers - Clips Nation - Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum and the parallels between the Clippers’ vets
Clippers are in a weird spot because the roster is full of older players who will contribute most right now, but they’ve been without Kawhi Leonard (ACL rehab) and Paul George (UCL) for months. Those guys might make it back for the playoffs, but like the Nets you wonder if they can shake the rust off from months of inactivity quick enough to lead LA on a meaningful playoff run.
- Dallas Mavericks - Mavs Money Ball - The Mavericks need to help Maxi Kleber figure things out on offense
Dallas has gone the route popular with many a modern basketball team in being quite thin when it comes to very tall players. Getting rid of Porzingis at some point was probably the right move, but Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell are now the only center-sized players on the roster. Kleber has struggled offensively which hurts as his coming into the game as part of bench lineups means there’s less punch from substitutes. Still, so long as he can defend Jason Kidd should be able to keep enough guys on the floor to score around Kleber... I think.
The Social Media Section
Sandro “Christian Wood” Mamukelashvili
Bird can’t fly in a cage ♂️ https://t.co/ZZeaCsoaaB— Sandro Mamukelashvili (@Mamukelashvili5) March 24, 2022
When local sports fan icons meet local news television station crews, magic happens
Fun little background piece about Zora
Bucks rehab programs are as experimental as any in the league
I gather that the guy doing this stunt is famous or something? Even if he wasn’t, here’s further proof that basketball in the Cities has been a vibe for the first time in a very long time
The barbershop is open in Minnesota pic.twitter.com/fFvTcMJws0— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 26, 2022
Note to team Twitter admins: Do not tempt fate by bigging up your team too much literally a month into the season. The basketball gods are not kind.
they really predicted their whole season https://t.co/gLiCix095b— Je-chosen-von (@BruhBucks) March 25, 2022
He’ll go down as one of the Herd’s greats
Veteran wing Tyreke Evans waived by G League’s Wisconsin Herd after just two games. https://t.co/2MdBVNSbLO— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) March 24, 2022
retired janitor’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 46-28
Riley’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 43-31
I’m quickly running out of time to catch RJ, and man are going to be going down to the wire. The sinister part of his formula means that if I am to have any chance to winning, I have to pick us to do some losing. Can’t believe I ever talked myself into taking up this self-imposed experiment.
Bucks have a busy week starting Tuesday in Philadelphia against the Sixers before heading up to NYC to play Brooklyn on Thursday. Then it’s back to Milwaukee to host the Clippers on Friday before finishing with a mid-day tip-off against the Mavericks on Sunday. I think we will beat the Sixers to throw that MVP/seeding race into ever more uncertainty, lose against the Nets, beat the Clippers, and loaf about and lose to the Mavericks.
Outside the confines of this experiment, though, I do hope we can pull off something neat this week. I’d love a little cherry on top of this rollercoaster season.