Yes, please chuckle along at home to this week’s MMMR title because I’m aware it is stating the obvious. What I mean more than my not having a clue is that I don’t think anyone can definitively say what the Milwaukee Bucks principles are.
That they can absolutely buzzsaw opponents in “clutch time” minutes (i.e. the last five minutes of the fourth quarter) is one principle. Besides that they... are certainly out there on the court. Which, hey, if you’re going to be unbelievably strong in one area, winning tight games is not a half bad place to start.
As we approach game 20 of the year this week, though, I’ve officially given up trying to suss out some sort of method in the madness of what the Bucks do on either end of the floor.
I get what they’re trying to do on defense, even if it has been full of stutters so far. On offense, I’m still searching for replicable sets. What we’re trying to do on the fly here is reorient the balance of power on the court out of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hands and into Damian Lillard’s. Lillard, having been the dominant force in Portland for so long, is likely very used to dealing with teammates who understand exactly where to move, what to do, and how Lillard wants them set up on the court for success. When everything was run through Giannis, the closest we got was five blue squares. It is just so radically different that it shouldn’t be surprising we’re grasping to slap together a whole new superstructure. And now we have to do it without Khris Middleton for awhile, too.
So while I still have high hopes for what 2024 may hold, I think we can watch games now without straining too hard to find something concrete beneath what the Bucks are running. We’re talented and work our asses off. I’m content to allow that be the game model while waiting until games 40, 50, 60, and beyond to evaluate what Milwaukee’s “system” of play is.
Milwaukee Bucks Links
Damian Lillard Speaks on joining Giannis in Milwaukee, NBA Top 75, playing in the bubble & more! (Knuckleheads Podcast/The Players’ Tribune)
Long interview here that I haven’t even had the chance to fully listen to, but there have been some good clips out there from it. Primarily the fact that Pat Connaughton has acted as a go-between for Giannis and Dame for years. What that tells me is that Pat is second only to Thanasis in terms of untradeability.
Have the Milwaukee Bucks Really Turned a Corner? (The Ringer)
Interesting numbers here from Zach Kram, and this all before the Celtics game (followed by the Wizards laying a ton of points of Milwaukee, as well). While the overall DRTG ranking has improved, it remains moribund structurally and only effective enough to give the offense a chance to find its groove. With Khris Middleton probably out for awhile, it’ll be interesting to see how capable the Bucks remain as a whole to dig up enough scoring to regularly win.
Something of a quarter-of-the-season-so-far recap piece from Jamal Collier at ESPN, chronicling the fact that a good portion of Milwaukee’s season so far has been about what’s missing v. what the Bucks are doing. The list of things missing including Dame/Giannis P&R spam, Brook Lopez parking himself near the paint, Jrue Holiday, etc.
It is once we can begin telling a story around the season about what the Bucks are uniquely bringing to the floor that we can feel it to be moving solidly in the right direction.
Betteridge’s law of headlines is an adage that states: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”
Also, while the Bucks certainly didn’t cover themselves in glory when facing the Celtics last week, it would be prudent to let the season play out before feeling like either side can be vindicated here.
Alternative headline: The Bucks have a Boston Celtics problem. Close contests or getting buried has been the norm for years now with 2019-2020 being the last regular season where the Bucks had a better than .500 season series record v. Boston. There’s going to have to be some conquering of demons eventually if Milwaukee intends on laying a firm grip on a Finals berth in the near-future.
Jrue Holiday on Bucks trading him for Damian Lillard: ‘I’m in the best place that I can be’ (CBS Sports)
“Man who was traded by his previous team a day after an interview ran in the local paper about how we wanted to retire there praises his current successful employer.”
Fan Post/Comment of the Week
Three for three for Team Tumbleweed. As far as Overreaction of the Week goes, as many commenters will point out, you can just head to the Game Threads if that’s your cup of tea.
Comment of the Week goes to Wuzh for summarizing the Bucks Way:
Coming from a coach that preached, “Play Random”, it often led to a predictable result. We usually won points in the paint and the free throw battle. We only lost if we lost the three point differential by a significant margin or we lost the shots attempted/turnover battle.
I can’t be certain for anything except that we will come to play in the fourth quarter. Guess I just need to turn on the game for the last 12 minutes to save myself some stress.
Know Your NBA Enemy
Miami Heat - Hot Hot Hoops - Nets down shorthanded Heat 112-97
- The Heat rested a bunch of guys in their latest loss to the Nets, likely with an eye on this coming week’s In-Season Tournament matchup with the Bucks. Barring a gigantic loss by the Bucks, Milwaukee is in pole position to advance, but that won’t stop the Heat from mixing it up.
Chicago Bulls - Blog A Bull - Zach LaVine is asking out, professionally
- The dek for this heater: “LaVine’s cosplaying as a superstar continues.” Such is an indication for how far the Bulls have fallen, having to listen to a guy the caliber of LaVine feel empowered to make demands of the franchise. Hilarious.
Atlanta Hawks - Peachtree Hoops - How the Hawks can dig themselves out the rut of average
- On a lot of statistical metrics, the Hawks are just the Bucks except they’re slightly underperforming their expected record rather than over performing. Their offense is second in the league and the defense is bad, while Milwaukee’s offense is a bit worse and defense good enough to keep things stable. That first loss to the Hawks was where concerns about Griffin’s defense really began to ramp up, so I’ll be interested to see how it goes in the second go-around.
The Social Media Section
Godspeed and good luck, Ibou
The Trail Blazers are signing 7-footer Ibou Badji to a two-way contract, sources tell ESPN. He's been playing for the Wisconsin Herd of the G League.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 22, 2023
Khris looking to hang around long enough so he too can pass Kareem’s scoring numbers
Not TyTy Washington in the comments lighting Dame up for his half-assed selfies
I love Giannis to death, but he did post this only to drop yet another stinker against the Celtics just days later lol
Thankful for MarJon’s thankfulness
Strong Thanksgiving meal at the Johnson residence
Riley’s 2023-2024 Regular Season Prediction Record: 8-9
Milwaukee Bucks 2023-2024 Actual Regular Season Record: 12-5
Something of a short week for the Bucks with just three games ahead:
- @ Miami Heat, Tuesday — 6:00 PM CST
- @ Chicago Bulls, Thursday — 7:00 PM CST
- v. Atlanta Hawks, Saturday — 7:00 PM CST
Put me down for 2-1 with road wins over the Heat and Bulls (who the Bucks have already handled previously and, in the case of Chicago, are beginning a season death spiral) and another loss to the Hawks. I’ve just got too many painful memories to ignore of us getting absolutely stunted on by Atlanta at home a few weeks ago to be supremely confident. Would be happy for the team to adjust and prove me wrong, though!