Put my conspiracy hypothesizing of a week ago to the side for a moment: Is there a chance that Bobby Portis went ahead and turned the Milwaukee Bucks season on its head (yet again)?
Whatever the truth behind what went down in Vegas, the one thing that rang as clear as ever is Bobby’s sense of the leadership expected of him by teammates. Having spoken up to his coach and his colleagues about needing to change the team rhythm (or something to that effect), Portis promptly went out and backed his words up with action in tussling and clowning on the Indiana Pacers last week. After that, and to the delight of Giannis Antetokounmpo & Co., it was on to a 31 point, 12 rebound outing against the Pistons.
The Bucks fumbled the IST semifinal and could’ve spiraled back into another bout of navel gazing; they indulged in a bit of that in the immediate aftermath of that loss. Since, there was a marked on-court tone shift starting with the Pacers game and leading to three comprehensive victories. A few games in December a season does not make, so don’t be surprised when there are more bumps in the road. For now, I’m happy to see that Bobby’s gambit looks to have paid off for himself and for the team in general. Someone needs to set the competitive tone. Few are more adept at it than Milwaukee’s honorary mayor.
Milwaukee Bucks Links
It's a testament to the era of big men we’re in the middle of that all three leading candidates in MVP straw polling are PFs/Cs. Barring injury or an unbelievable streak of play down the road, who you pick for MVP will once again come down to abstract math that tries to balance personal stats with winning with narrative with vibes and with a whole bunch of other factors. Joel Embiid’s raw counting stats are superior to Giannis’s in fewer minutes a night, so there’s no foul here listing his as top of the list thus far.
For reference’s sake, I do note that the Bucks past strength of schedule (based on point differential on Basketball Reference) is 29th (or second-easiest) in the league, and the strength of their remaining schedule is 9th. The optimistic take is that the team racked up wins all while doing a ton of overhaul in how they play on the fly — the rest of the season is the real test of what’s real.
Also though it was interesting that the last team to win a title after beign bottom-third in either regular season offense or defense was the 2000-2001 Lakers. Helpfully, as of this writing the Bucks saw their defense climb into 19th place (116.2), so we can go ahead and blissfully ignore that bit of history!
Thanasis Antetokounmpo was funniest part of Bucks-Pacers game ball controversy (SB Nation) & Inside bizarre, petty Bucks-Pacers feud: Giannis’ ball search, ‘fired up’ dudes and a GM’s bruised rib (CBS Sports)
In case you wanted any more GameBall-Gate (as mothership colleague Ricky O’Donnell so eloquently put it), we’ve got a pair of pieces for you. One dialing in on the Thanasis aspect of it all, the other a more comprehensive breakdown of every step escalating up to and then falling away from The Confrontation. Mark it down for the record books that I did not expect the Pacers to emerge as our blood rivals this season.
Know Your NBA Enemy
San Antonio Spurs - Pounding the Rock - Winning after losing is the best feeling
Bit of an odd one here, but most of the rest of recent PtR posts are game coverage, so here we are. The author writes about their experience growing up in Smallville, Oregon, USA and about how he was a basketball player in high school? And how they won and he knelt before the bench? I’m extremely confused.
Orlando Magic - Orlando Pinstriped Post (RIP) - Magic’s 5 worst signings in free agents so far
Orlando Pinstriped Post is dead. Long live Orlando Pinstriped Post. And long live the rando who has taken on the dead site’s title as a username and posted a FanPost over there in early October about the worst FAs in Magic history. Keep traditions alive, folks.
New York Knicks - Posting & Toasting - Knicks need to return to defensive roots to reestablish identity
If the author here is correct — and I’ve no reason to believe they’re wrong — the Knicks have collapsed from a top-five defense in the league to a place just a hair better than where the Bucks currently stand. A strange place to be for any Thibs-coached team, although the loss of starting center Mitchell Robinson is the leading reason being pointed to for the drop-off. They’ve got a very solid offense to help carry them, but if Saturday’s matinee is a footrace, I know who I’m backing.
Comment of the Week
Through all the hullabaloo following GameBall-Gate, I think laurapringleswilder captures the essence of a budding rivalry quite well:
I kind of love this young Pacers team acting as a foil to the Bucks. Haven’t had a real division rival in a while. I wanted to hate Haliburton at first, but I have to respect his soon-to-be superstardom and 100% commitment to playing the heel. It’s fun! The NBA is fun. (Also give Giannis the damn game ball, ya jerks!)
Do we want guys muscling up to one another on a nightly basis? No. But guys are welcome to spice things up occasionally by riding that thin line between pure competition and a visceral desire to prove you’re better than the other guy(s).
The Social Media Section
Classicism is flourishing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Marques is unafraid of politely disagreeing with a stranger in a public forum
Disagree, totally. Definite defensive issues to continue to clean up. Been watching this staff regularly in practice. Collection of very bright basketball minds. They will figure it out after this period of adjustment. May need additional pieces… https://t.co/uFHe7cfxx2— Elder Marques Johnson (@olskool888) December 12, 2023
Teammate threatens teammate, but eases tension with crying laughing emojis
Can’t believe I lived long enough to see this
Extreme case of Marvin Bagley face
If you read Jae’s caption carefully, he indicates that the product he is wearing will be up for purchase by the general public soon, then follows it up by asking aloud whether he should release it at all
Got Dame to write @Kohls in one of his Instagram posts. Amazing.
Checking in with probably the greatest cosmopolitan who has ever donned a Bucks uniform
Riley’s 2023-2024 Regular Season Prediction Record: 13-13
Milwaukee Bucks 2023-2024 Actual Regular Season Record: 19-7
Two more games left on this home stand before the team jets off to NYC for back-to-backs:
- v. San Antonio Spurs, Tuesday — 7:00 PM CT
- v. Orlando Magic, Thursday — 7:00 PM CT
- @ New York Knicks, Saturday — 11:30 AM CT
San Antonio is quite bad, although the intrigue of the first Giannis-Victor Wembanyama matchup should draw plenty of eyeballs. Meanwhile, the Magic were able to smother the Bucks offense in mid-November (without Dame) and continue to field the league’s third-best defense. And the Bucks haven’t lost to the Knicks since November 10th, 2021, reeling off eight straight wins. I’ve got a good feeling that the winning will continue with another perfect week in the offing.