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Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

A week of wins brings good vibes only

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Khris Middleton is back playing basketball for the Milwaukee Bucks. The team is on a roll, crushing opponents with offensive aptitude we’ve been missing all year. Who cares that the level of play from those opponents has been suspect at best — wins are wins, especially in the dog days (No, not the “WE DOGS!” days) of the NBA calendar. Plus, Giannis Antetokounmpo just dropped a casual 50-pointer in half an hour. The vibes are immaculate at the moment and I’m going to soak them all in. Let’s wrap-up.

The Week That Was

The junk-it-up Denver Nuggets backup squad kicked off this week with a sorta sour note, but ultimately the Bucks downed Bruce Brown and company to maintain momentum after that Pistons win. Carlisle must’ve watched that game tape and wanted to up the ante, because heading to the Hack-A-Giannis move with 7-8 minutes left in the game was inspired. I genuinely tip my cap to him as they tried to pull out all the stops for a W, but Giannis found his groove enough to put that one away. New Orleans had no chance against a determined Antetokounmpo. Charlotte, pesky as usual, hung in it long enough to make it a game. But, even a Badger-esque scoring drought in the final minutes couldn’t deter the Bucks from pulling out a perfect 4-0 week.

Weekly Wondering

Bud leads this team with a “let it fly” mantra, but that’s been more true than ever over the past month or so. In January, they nearly led the league in terms of percentage of attempts from three (45.7%), a decent clip above their season-long mark of 40.7%. Couple that with the uptick in shooting percentage as well (39.3% in January), and we’ve enjoyed a bountiful run of buckets this past month.

If I’m being honest though, I always get a little anxious when the team relies so heavily on threes. Maybe it’s Playoff PTSD, but I can’t help thinking of the 3-point shooting well drying up completely come April, May and June. To me, what stood out most about Milwaukee’s championship run was that while their offense was fairly lackluster throughout, they seemed to have a knack for not becoming overly reliant on 3-pointers when their shooting failed them.

As a reminder, here’s what Milwaukee’s shot frequency looked like in the 2020-21 regular season vs. the Playoffs.

2021 Bucks Shot Frequency by Location

Season Rank Rim Rank Short Mid Rank Long Mid Rank All Mid Rank Corner 3 Rank Non-Corner 3 Rank All 3
Season Rank Rim Rank Short Mid Rank Long Mid Rank All Mid Rank Corner 3 Rank Non-Corner 3 Rank All 3
Reg Season 2020-21 15 32.60% 20 18.70% 10 11.20% 14 29.90% 19 8.40% 11 29.10% 12 37.50%
Playoffs 2020-21 6 31.80% 12 21.10% 12 11.20% 12 32.30% 7 8.90% 13 26.90% 13 35.90%

There wasn’t all that much of a difference in the aggregate, but the overall 3-point frequency dropping a bit is still noticeable. Like I said, there was a lot of “eye test” involved in my observation about the team recognizing when to go away from the deep ball. I’m picturing third quarters where Brook or Giannis insert themselves for a point in the paint to break a scoring drought. One reasons those change-of-pace buckets were so critical was due to Milwaukee’s accuracy in most areas of the court outside the deep ball:

2021 Bucks Shot Accuracy by Location

Season Rank Rim Rank Short Mid Rank Long Mid Rank All Mid Rank Corner 3 Rank Non-Corner 3 Rank All 3
Season Rank Rim Rank Short Mid Rank Long Mid Rank All Mid Rank Corner 3 Rank Non-Corner 3 Rank All 3
Reg Season 2020-21 3 67.80% 9 44.30% 10 43.00% 9 43.80% 12 40.00% 5 38.60% 6 38.90%
Playoffs 2020-21 3 70.00% 9 41.10% 6 45.60% 7 42.70% 9 38.60% 18 31.20% 17 33.10%

Which leads me to this year. Here’s how the breakdown has looked for this year in terms of shot frequency and accuracy:

2023 Bucks Shot Accuracy & Frequency by Location

Type Rank Rim Rank Short Mid Rank Long Mid Rank All Mid Rank Corner 3 Rank Non-Corner 3 Rank All 3
Type Rank Rim Rank Short Mid Rank Long Mid Rank All Mid Rank Corner 3 Rank Non-Corner 3 Rank All 3
Frequency 19 32.40% 29 17.00% 12 9.90% 26 26.80% 4 10.20% 5 30.50% 5 40.70%
Accuracy 11 67.80% 29 38.90% 18 40.80% 28 39.60% 24 36.90% 12 36.30% 18 36.50%

Part of the reliance on the deep ball has come from necessity. Playing games without Giannis and Khris Middleton mean fewer shots from the interior given the limited nature of the Bucks’ other players. Still, now that the full boat of players is aboard, I’ll be keeping an eye on how the team’s shot distribution looks between now and the Playoffs. I’m basically banking on an inevitable precipitous decline of that 3PT percentage at some point, and it’ll behoove them to have plans B, C and sometimes D ready to roll.

Stats don’t include the Charlotte Hornets game.

Plays of the Week

With all the scoring, there was plenty to pick through for this week’s entries. Take a gander at what stood out to me these past four contests.

Calling His Lob Shot

This was too cool to not include. Giannis and Khris get switches, and when Antetokounmpo sees Ish Smith on him and an open lane, he literally calls his shot from outside to Middleton. “Give me the lob, I’m going up.”

Fake Flipping the Screen

I’ve highlighted Pat Connaughton coming up through the lane to set a screen for Giannis when he’s atop the arc several times this season in this column. It’s quickly become one of my favorite pet plays, partially due to Pat’s nimble ability to flip the screen at the final second so Giannis can get a cleaner release. They’ve started running variations off of this same action now too. This is as simple as Pat going to set the screen, Turner trying to jump past it, and Connaughton getting a free release beyond the arc for a dump-off from Giannis. Antetokounmpo shields Duarte just enough on the handoff to give Pat a clean look for a three that splashes home.

Screens Galore

The first offensive play for Milwaukee against New Orleans resulted in Giannis barreling down the lane, so I have a feeling this might’ve been the actual scripted first set. It starts with Pat in the dunker, while Giannis works from right to left on the floor with a few light traffic cone screens from Grayson and Brook to provide an easy release. The key comes in the next action. Brook sells like he’s coming over to set another screen for Giannis, but Connaughton has snuck behind him and is setting a screen from behind on his man, Valanciunas. Once Pat gets his body on him, Lopez twirls like a 7-foot dancer and sprints down the lane with only Pat’s undersized defender in his way. Giannis makes a picture-perfect pass in rhythm and Lopez slams it home. This is one of my favorite plays in awhile.

Left Wrist Looking Good

This is a highlight for one reason: Khris’s injured wrist doing all the work here. There’s basically nothing happening here. Everyone else besides Khris is just kinda standing there or fake moving around as if they’re going to do something substantial. Middleton almost dribbles it off his own leg, but he gets Marshall sleeping and whips out a quick spin move shifting his dribble into his left hand. As he drives, without skipping a beat, he uses that same injured wrise to drop a touch pass to Holiday waiting in the dunker for a lay-up. Swell stuff as he keeps working back to his normal self.


Feb. 1: The play of the week is...

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Calling His Lob Shot
    (23 votes)
  • 7%
    Fake Flipping the Screen
    (5 votes)
  • 47%
    Screens Galore
    (33 votes)
  • 11%
    Left Wrist Looking Good
    (8 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now

That’ll do it for another wrap-up!