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Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

All hail Giannis

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks stand at the precipice of the Playoffs. As someone who listens to far too many national NBA podcasts, every shifting take I hear rings a bit hollow knowing that the league’s narrative will be almost entirely dependent upon what happens in this year’s Playoffs. Before the title run last year, the Bucks were frauds, regular season dynamos whose superstar couldn’t get it done in the biggest moments with a coach who couldn’t get out of his own way. Now, they get every benefit of the doubt.

Case in point: The Jazz’s failures have relegated them to the point any regular season accomplishment is dismissed out of hand. Phoenix’s magical run will be quickly forgotten if the stumble in the postseason. Memphis is maybe two years away from any Playoff disappointment ruining the unvarnished joy of a young team on the rise. Philly is, well, Philly unless they win the title. Boston, suddenly the title darling of the media, could find themselves back in their disappointment spin cycle. We all love to talk about MVPs, teams on the rise, title favorites, jockeying for seeds, etc, But after the past few years of Bucks basketball, we know as well as any franchise the way postseason play shapes national narrative. So, let’s enjoy this final ride, but sit comfortably as a fanbase knowing any noise doesn’t really matter until we see how the team acquits itself in April, May and June. Let’s wrap-up.

The Week That Was

It’s “rest your stars” time, but that didn’t even seem to matter against a washed-up Wizards squad that Jrue Holiday roasted time and again. The Bucks got subsequently roasted on Saturday by the Grizzlies, who outmuscled, outtoughed and outplayed a Milwaukee team for 48 full minutes. They don’t stop. As for Philly...

Weekly Wondering

We’ve gone through so many stats in this column over the course of the season, from Giannis’s midrange shooting to Khris’s performance dip, the big three firing on all cylinders at once, Serge Ibaka’s inclusion, Playoff clutch lineups, the list goes on. With just two weeks to go, it’s hard to find all that much still worth dissecting, particularly with Brook Lopez’s return only giving us a small sample size thus far, and none of it coming during a game when the Bucks had all of their preferred players healthy and active (with the exception of Tuesday’s Philly game). Tuesday was an interesting glance into potential Playoff rotations by the way...

But instead of dialing up the usual tables, charts and whatnots, I wanted to run through some of the Eastern Conference contenders to see how others are feeling in terms of who the Bucks match up with best. I limited this list to teams I think could make it out of the East this season, with apologies to Cleveland, Toronto and Chicago...actually, strike the apology to those last two. Here’s how I see the matchups, in terms of the teams I think have the best odds of knocking off the Bucks.

Brooklyn

I know, I know, the chances are quite slim this team can overcome the myriad turmoil and absences they face with no Joe Harris or Ben Simmons. But, I subscribe to the idea you normally need the best player in a series in order to win, and this is the only one where I could see someone (Kevin Durant obviously) potentially outplaying Giannis. For all his sage-burning and vaccine stances, Kyrie Irving also has carved up the Bucks decently, and he’s so fast and crafty I think Holiday sometimes has trouble sticking with him. Their defensive question marks are possibly the biggest of this group, especially with their smaller backcourt rotations, but they still can come together with Bruce Brown crowding Middleton and KD anchoring the rim. I’m not fearful of Brooklyn, I can’t be fearful of anything after last year, but they bring enough to the table that I still think they could win.

Miami

This one is predicated almost entirely upon their defensive switchability and their historic ability to make Giannis at least work for each and every point. His numbers from last season’s Playoffs weren’t gaudy, although that was before he seemed to have everything click from the latter stages of the Brooklyn series and on. Still, Miami has capable defenders at almost every position, but their offensive is quite reliant upon 3-point shots falling and the shot-creation of Tyler Herro. Spo’s intricate sets can get gummed up as Playoff games wear on, and I’m not sure they’ll have the firepower to keep up with the Bucks. Still, if slowing down Giannis is key to a series win, I’d say they’re best equipped to do so out of any East team.

Philly

They have another MVP candidate, and as we saw on Tuesday, Brook Lopez can make Joel Embiid work, but he certainly can’t stop him. I have little faith in James Harden over the course of a full series, and I think their complementary players may not be proven quite enough to pull through — even if Tyrese Maxey and Georges Niang could make the Bucks pay for sagging off them as drivers and shooters respectively. They would need a dominating performance from Embiid, need him to outplay Antetokounmpo, and I’m not sure he has the stamina to do that throughout seven potential games.

Boston

I probably would’ve had the Celts above Miami on this list were it not for the Robert Williams injury, only because they have such a preponderance of wings and their defense has been next level for nearly two months. Without Williams, they’re relying on Al Horford to stick in front of Giannis...we know how that story ends. I think they could put a scare into the Bucks given the scoring ability of Tatum, the defensive versatility and flopping ability of Marcus Smart, and another capable shooter in Jaylen Brown, but without Williams I think it would be tough for them to knock off Milwaukee. I also can’t envision Tatum outplaying Giannis.

I’d like to send an honorable mention to the Toronto Raptors, who weaponize their length as well as any team in the league, and Nick Nurse has Mike Budenholzer’s number right now. I think they’re just a bit too green though to make it through. I could certainly see us falling short of the Finals this year, but as I thought through the other conference contenders, I felt better about the Bucks chances than ever I think...the Finals would be another story though.

I’m curious how others see the East teams matching up with the Bucks. Drop your thoughts in the comment section.

Plays of the Week

Shoutout to some veteran savvy in this collection of plays, plus a planet Pat sideline save, Jrue Holiday beasting and, well, one highlight that’s impossible to not include.

George Hill: Certified Veteran

There weren’t many plays from the Memphis game worth highlighting, but I thought this was a stellar example of what George Hill’s chemistry with this team can still provide. Sure his shot has been off and he doesn’t have much wiggle, but at this point in the game, the Bucks still had a small shot of coming back. Giannis struggled in the first half around the rim, and the Bucks were making a conscious effort it seemed to attack early in the shot clock before Memphis could get set. Here, Giannis dribbles it up court with Hill by his side. Five Grizz defenders are there, but three are preoccupied, Steven Adams isn’t at the rim and Giannis senses a free baseline and an open rim.

So does George Hill, who quickly gets in position to put a rough screen on JJJ that allows Giannis the freedom to get baseline and easily score against a light lovetap by Tyus Jones. Those kind of plays don’t just happen with newbies.

Jrue Holiday: Certified Badass

After snaring the rebound, he’s not even at halfcourt before he’s already picked his prey. Raul Neto is just too tiny, and he signals for Wes Matthews to get the heck out of the dunker spot on his side of the floor. With an empty side, he easily spin moves past Neto, bullies his way low as the Wiz all collapse on him under the bucket. Leaving his feet, he delivers a pinpoint pass to Pat Connaughton above the break. Bucket.

Pat Connaughton: Certified Crazy

It doesn’t really make sense that Pat Connaughton is able to get up in the air to grab this ball with one hand, but he does it. I enjoy this little highlight because it combines ball movement, with basic actions and a bit of acrobatics plus isolation. It starts with Holiday coming from the right above the break around an Ibaka screen to gather the ball. Meanwhile, Connaughton takes his place in the right corner.

As George Hill cuts through the lane, Holiday starts his drive catching his man off guard. With one hand, he shovels a left-armed pass over his head that flies well above Pat’s noggin on the right side. Connaughton somehow collects the ball with his own offhand, and flies it back inbounds to Ibaka as he falls out of bounds. With just a few seconds remaining, Ibaka feels confident enough to take The Zinger off the dribble, scoring a layin over the 7-footer after a silly slow crossover.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: Certified Block King

There are no words for this guy.


And finally, a programming note: this will be the last Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up of the season. I’m going to take next week off to recharge my fingers before the Playoffs start. Thanks to everyone for reading the column throughout the season. Hopefully you found some good nuggets, and I enjoyed hearing your rationale for why you liked one play over the other. So without further ado, let’s vote for the final play of the week.

Poll

March 30: My Play of the Week is...

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    George Hill: Certified Veteran
    (7 votes)
  • 10%
    Jrue Holiday: Certified Badass
    (21 votes)
  • 4%
    Pat Connaughton: Certified Crazy
    (9 votes)
  • 82%
    Giannis Antetokounmpo: Certified Block King
    (170 votes)
207 votes total Vote Now