Though this light week of games began inauspiciously with Giannis’ recent knee injury, meaning Milwaukee had no choice but to go small at one forward spot (sometimes both), perimeter players had a real moment in the sun this week, moreso after leaving South Beach. Obviously Jrue Holiday shone brightest, but for how much the Bucks’ off-ball guard depth is discussed—or even maligned—Grayson Allen combined with solid reserve play in the backcourt powered them to big second halves in their last two victories. With how much he set the offense atop the arc, Ingles deserves mention with those guys too. Don’t discount how far 46 PPG from your starting backcourt can go, even when your team lacks its all-world scorer.
Jrue Holiday: A+ (last week: A)
3 GP, 35.9 MPG, .576/.444/.625, 28.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 9.3 APG, 3.0 TPG, 1.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
With scarcely any hit to his individual defense, Holiday assumed the mantle of lead scorer yet again for a set of games without Giannis to great effect. He has supreme trust in his jumper right now, especially the stepback for three and most any shot late in games, evidenced by some big momentum-shifters Tuesday night (not to mention the pictured block on Fred VanVleet). Back-to-back season highs should put him in Eastern Conference Player of the Week contention, not to mention a late charge for the All-Star game. For much of the season, it appeared Lopez led in the clubhouse for a potential second All-Star berth, and now he’s been usurped.
Brook Lopez: A (last week: B+)
3 GP, 32.1 MPG, .606/.600/1.000, 17.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.7 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 1.7 BPG
Those gaudy percentages stand out among several big performances by Bucks shooters this week, but in a first for this season, Lopez’s only demerit this week is on the defensive end. While he hasn’t been bad by any stretch, and opponents didn’t annihilate Milwaukee in the paint, I’ve noticed in recent games his timing appears off. That’s reflected in lower block numbers to some extent, but smaller Pacer and Raptor shooters got shots up more easily than you’d like when Lopez guarded them. These typically came in the short midrange, but even
Steve Gary Trent sank a three with Splash Mountain directly in front of him. With the high minute load (get well soon Giannis), this could be a fatigue thing, especially as games head into their later stages.
Grayson Allen: A (last week: B+)
3 GP, 30.6 MPG, .514/.556/.889, 18.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
About time for Allen’s biggest game of the year, as the shooting slump that plagued him around the holidays is now firmly in the rearview. Coupled with some absolutely massive treys in the fourth on both Monday and Tuesday, hopefully the confidence that seemed to evaporate around the holidays is back too. Early last season, he excelled while Milwaukee’s big three was incomplete due to short-term maladies, but the combination of lower volume and altered shot selection means those kinds of performances haven’t occurred much so far this year. With the Bucks naturally relying heavily on the three-ball in Giannis’ absence, he’s benefitted more than anyone with the uptick in volume. His driving is back on the upswing too (6/8 within five feet) after a few weeks of difficulties inside.
Bobby Portis: B- (last week: B+)
3 GP, 31.9 MPG, .421/.333/1.000, 16.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.7 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Portis’ scoring hasn’t been as critical in recent contests as it usually is, and though he continues to rack up double-doubles with the best of them, he was again a neutral contributor at best the last few times out. That might even be charitable because many of his turnovers and fouls seemed to hurt the Bucks, particularly against the Pacers. He’s as guilty as anyone of bad backcourt turnovers, usually off inbounds passes, and T.J. McConnell made him pay for each by hitting triples off the miscues. He was whistled for tough and-ones in the last two also, and his on-ball defense looked borderline terrible with how easily opponents worked him inside the arc.
Pat Connaughton: B- (last week: C)
3 GP, 29.8 MPG, .393/.429/.500, 10.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.7 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Connaughton routinely gets to the right spots on the perimeter for open shots, but he’s a bit guilty of tunnel vision elsewhere, evidenced by that sequence on Tuesday where he missed three times at the rim while guarded by at least one much larger Raptor, completely ignorant of a wide-open and much better-equipped-to-handle-the-situation Lopez behind him. Once again, he’s an important defensive rebounder in most lineups thanks to his athleticism, and he’s channeling that into decent on-ball work instead of flying by shooters.
Joe Ingles: A (last week: B+)
2 GP, 28.2 MPG, .600/.600/.833, 10.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 0.5 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Our favorite Aussie isn’t quite ready for back-to-back action, but he’s stuffing the stat sheet and staking a claim as the team’s best passer while finding chemistry with non-Giannis Bucks in the P&R. His defense also is coming around; when he can use his size—against players even as young as Scottie Barnes—rather than his speed (or lack thereof), he’s more than passable on that end. I’ll add his late strip of VanVleet underneath the rim to the mantle of game-altering plays against Toronto, so with his length involved, he just might be serviceable on smaller perimeter scorers too.
George Hill: A (last week: B)
2 GP, 18.1 MPG, .600/.333/.000, 7.0 PPG, 0.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.0 TPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Needing an injection of veteran stability over the erratic Carter and the slumping MarJon Beauchamp, Hill was just what the doctor ordered in the second half on Monday afternoon. I don’t expect him to be cutting that actively or coming up with that many loose balls on a nightly basis, and truthfully he’s not someone that should play every night in order to keep him fresh come playoff time. In stretches where playmaking and/or ball control is lacking, though, he’s obviously great to have around now that he’s healthy.
Jevon Carter: D+ (last week: B-)
3 GP, 14.2 MPG, .364/.333/.500, 3.7 PPG, 0.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.7 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Riding a bit too high on his own bandwagon after last week, Carter might be playing himself out of a rotation spot in the short term given the confluence of Hill’s return and his own underwhelming results. Bud kept him glued to the pine in the second half of the Pacers game after he struggled to contain McConnell—which was a function of their first-half call to go under on screens set for him, to be fair—in what appeared to be the right call. Ultimately, this underscores his limits as a role player and matchup dependence. Against some teams, Carter will simply look overmatched in some aspect of the game.
Jordan Nwora: B (last week: B+)
2 GP, 21.3 MPG, .357/.714/.857, 10.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.5 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG
It was mildly surprising that Nwora was the lone holdover from the more youthful bench lineups of Monday’s first half to the veteran-heavy groups that got the Bucks back into the game, but credit to him for knocking down nearly everything—from deep at least. That wackadoo shooting line is indeed what you’re thinking: he converted five of his seven three-point attempts this week while whiffing all of his twos, three of which were at the rim.
A.J. Green: C- (last week: B+)
3 GP, 11.6 MPG, .357/.417/.000, 5.0 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG
That first half on Monday might also have spelled a big downtick in Green’s minutes too because he’s predictably being attacked defensively on every switch. He hit enough shots to avoid a quicker hook, but the plus/minus figures of he and Carter (-8 and -7, respectively) as the only Bucks below the water line really stood out for being single-game figures.
Mike Budenholzer: B+ (last week: B-)
2-1 W-L, 122.3 ORtg (6th), 120.5 DRtg (25th), 1.7 NetRtg (13th)
Some crow about Milwaukee’s gargantuan three-point rate in Miami—whose interior defense is among the league’s best—but given how hot the team has been for the last several games, success from downtown has been their primary driver to wins, and not a moment too soon. Though the overall volume is obviously higher (47.9 3PA/game in the last two weeks), the Bucks are generating nearly the same amount of wide-open looks (an NBA-best 23.3 per game) during their last seven contests as they were in the seven-game stretch prior (24, also tops in the league) when they rode the struggle bus. The difference? Milwaukee hit 46.0% of those (sixth-best over that timespan) in the current stretch versus 32.1% in the last one. Nailing open shots makes this offense look a lot better, huh?
Incomplete: MarJon Beauchamp (1 GP, 10 MIN), Sandro Mamukelashvili (1 GP, 7 MIN), Wesley Matthews (1 GP, 6 MIN), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (1 GP, 3 MIN), Serge Ibaka (DNP), Giannis Antetokounmpo (injured), Khris Middleton (injured)
I guess I’ll say this again, even as Middleton himself acknowledged in an interview with The Athletic’s Eric Nehm last week that we’re all looking like idiots trying to predict when he’ll return to the lineup: I believe Middleton will finally play in the days ahead. With Giannis likely back as well after this three-day break, there will still be an onus on Holiday to encompass much of the scoring load. Fortunately, he’s firmly dialed in right now. While we might not see further 130+ performances (still crazy that both happened without Giannis), with how well key role players are showing currently, scoring seems likely to keep trending up with the stars’ impending returns.
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.