Week by week, the longer this Milwaukee Bucks season stretches on, the more its defining characteristic continues to be injuries. Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out four of the five games this past week, Khris Middleton remains out amidst his clear frustration with the rehab process, and a full-health team feels more and more like a pipe dream as the days go by. But I take heart in knowing eventually, one day, we will wake up and see all of Giannis, Khris, Jrue and Brook activated in the same game. That keeps me trudging on through this regular season filled with glimpses of brilliance, but some shrug-worthy play in between. Let’s wrap-up.
The Week That Was
- Milwaukee 114, Atlanta 105 (Jolly Jrue Comes up Clutch Again)
- Milwaukee 102, Miami 108 (Bench Brigade Kept it Close)
- Milwaukee 95, Miami 111 (Florida Man Announces Candidacy for Bucks Slayer)
- Milwaukee 132, Indiana 119 (Bucks Take Control of the Pace)
- Milwaukee 130, Toronto 122 (Bucks Close Out Toronto)
Rare is the week where there are two back-to-backs within it, but that’s what we’re dealing with for this wrap-up. The good news is that bookending it with positive notes helps butt out the boringness that was both of those Miami contests. Beating Atlanta after nearly coughing up a lead wasn’t great, but a strong finish also marked Jevon Carter finally re-finding some shooting groove. Unfortunately, that didn’t really translate to Miami, where Milwaukee was just undermanned without Giannis. Absent a zone-buster like the Greek Freak, the offense fell back almost entirely on threes and when those dried up, so did the scoring.
As my colleague Van Fayaz put it, the Indiana game was really, “The old guy second half,” as George Hill and Wes Matthews stepped out of carbonite to change the tenor of that contest. Finally, an entertaining game with the long-armed Raptors came down to the wire, but Holiday put together his second straight dynamite offensive performance to pull out the W without Giannis.
I’m ceding the floor week this week to two of my Brew Hoop brethren. If you’re looking for swell wrap-ups of both December and the team’s play the last 20-odd games, check out Kyle’s “What We Learned” piece and Dru’s Quarterly report.
Plays of the Week
The initial defensive sequence is more circumstantial upon rewatch, but it’s still impressive enough that Holiday can have the presence of mind to grab a ricocheting ball in traffic and keep it bouncing to quickly start the break. With Allen screaming down the right side, Jrue’s pass is picture-perfect to allow Grayson to follow with his momentum and catch without stopping his stride for a slam.
Brook on Butler
Spliced two clips together so it looks a little janky, but I wanted to give Brook Lopez credit for this full possession against Jimmy Butler. It starts with him having to corral him on a drive from the perimeter, sticking with him for a contest along the baseline. When it clanks off and the rebound ricochets off his leg, he has to tackle two men in the strong side with Butler having an opportunity to take him by surprise for a second shot opportunity. Instead, Brook’s quick recovery means Butler opts for a full reset, letting his team recover and then trying to take Lopez off the bounce through the lane. It looks like he has a small step on him, but Brook maintains contact, keeping his left hand up to prevent an easy shot and his right attached to Jimmy’s hip until the last possible second when he raises it to disrupt a simple attempt. Butler isn’t the fastest superstar, but this was a great example of Lopez’s ability to use his feet in short stint switching opportunities.
Early Clock Movement?!
There’s one reason I wanted to highlight this one: take a look at the shot clock when Allen is starting his action with Connaughton on the strong side. It’s barely eked past 19! I’d love to see more Bucks plays start like this so there’s early action in the clock. Here, they don’t need to try a second action, but it does catch the Heat napping on the weakside. All it takes is Allen circling back around for a pass from Pat on the left corner and then a rifled pass to Lopez on the weakside for a three. If that hadn’t been open, he would’ve also had Portis on the block against Gabe Vincent, or Holiday and Connaughton couldn’t done a DHO. Faster shot clock actions mean more chances for Plan B sets within a possession.
George Hill has been sick and out of the rotation for some time now, but he made up for it in bunches against Indiana. On top of some truly stand-out reads as a passer, the play above illustrates he still has usefulness beyond standing in the blue boxes. After observing the standard Portis-Holiday PnR up top, he sees Bobby’s man leave him. The second Holiday flips it back to Portis, you can see McConnell leave Hill to disrupt Bobby and Wes’s defender hunch back to deter him in the corner. At that very instant, Hill pounces and starts his cut directly to an open basket. Portis doesn’t hesitate, and Hill gets an easy lay-in as Wes navigates up from the corner to keep Brissett on him just long enough that George’s bucket plops in.
A Defensive Stand
Milwaukee’s defense struggled all night against the long-armed offensive rebounding of the Raptors and their guard’s hot shooting. But with the game closing down, they put together a team effort to put Toronto down for the count. Off-ball, Holiday lingers just long enough in the lane to prevent Barnes from hitting an easy pass to Anunoby underneath the bucket while Pat recovers. Ingles high-ball pressure helps too. When Scottie goes to reset and pass to VanVleet, Holiday is playing crazy high on the floor and getting his arms in every possible passing angle forcing Barnes to waste precious seconds dribbling the air out of the ball. Eventually, he has to give in and just pass to OG on the low left block guarded tight by Connaughton. Pat absorbs the post-up blows, Bobby helps out for a contest at the last possible second to force the miss. And crucially, it misses bad enough that Ingles has proper boxout positioning on Barnes beneath the bucket to corral the board. A true team effort in the waning minutes of that contest.
Jan. 18: The Play of the Week is...
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Brook on Butler
Early Clock Movement?!
A Defensive Stand
That’ll do it for this week’s wrap-up!