If a team becomes the best in the league and nobody checks the standings, did it even happen?
It is classically Milwaukee Bucks to sit in the second or third seed for 3/5ths of the season before rocketing forth to the best record in the entire NBA, and for the wider response to be at best a shrug of the shoulders. Maybe we truly did get too deep into the Nikola Jokic Wars for there to be any story which could come along to take some of the attention off that.
Maybe it is for the best that nobody is talking about the Bucks. That relative silence results in lowered expectations and lowered narrative intensity which is the exact spot the Bucks should be thriving in. As I wrote at the start of last week’s column, they’ve yet to reach levels of consistent inevitability that would make this team truly remarkable as a historical outlier.
Yet they’re getting there slowly but surely, not by blowing opponents out of the water on a nightly basis but through the grimy work of survival — being able to take the next logical step while their nightly opponent tumbles over QWOP-style. Not pretty, effective; no wonder people don’t want to spend any bandwidth covering this team.
Khris Middleton Could Change the Calculus of This Year’s Title Race (The Ringer)
Interestingly, I was unaware Khris was playing at the highest usage rate of his career thus far — 27.4%. His AST% is also at a career-high 30.7% which belies the slight shift in emphasis as a creator for others than someone who generates all his own offense. There have been some recent highs like his 31 point performance against the Kings mixed in with some relatively mediocre outings. Can he turn in more of the former rather than the latter in the playoffs? And if he’s meh a few games a series, can the Bucks overcome it?
Which teams do you trust beyond the Bucks as legit title contenders? (Yahoo)
A who’s who of teams that might have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs. The top three teams in the East look stronger than the herd of Western Conferences hopefuls, and even then the Celtics are moping their way from win to defeat to win to defeat. Respect the hustle of including the Lakers in the group of contenders even though we’ve seen zero sign that they have anything approaching a consistent title-winning formula
Milwaukee Bucks star Bobby Portis launches podcast (WISN)
Risky to tie the name of your nascent podcasting empire to a soulless corporation, even if the wordplay of “Keep It A Buck” extends beyond our favorite sportsball team into general lexicon. In fact, maybe Bobby is making a subtle push to secure his continued spot on the roster while GM Jon Horst messes with ESPN’s Trade Machine.
Oddsmakers treating Giannis Antetokounmpo like the clear No. 3 and it’s not really clear why (CBS Sports)
Went from people stabbing each other quite openly about whether Nikola Jokic is deserving of another MVP trophy to... Joel Embiid being the favorite? OK.
Shouldn’t you get MVP points deducted if you’re the least entertaining person to watch on a basketball court? Embiid’s pouting per 36 is legendary and should be held against him in my humble opinion. I guess that’s why I don’t get a vote.
Bucks, Celtics or 76ers: Which team has edge in race for top seed in East? (NBA.com)
Could you imagine the quality of sleep we’d be getting if the Bucks got to kick back and relax while the Sixers and Celtics struggle to kill each other for seven games in the ECSF? Might look something like this:
Fan Post of the Week
Bit of a weird one here since G may is primarily linking to a Reddit user’s post, so maybe we’ll split it 50/50? So congrats Upstairs_Choice_7370 and G may for “In support of Giannis MVP candidacy”. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard even a whisper of Giannis4MVP talk across the national media web, so it is likely a moot point. But you’ve gotta back your guy up!
An honorable mention goes to burt snipes for “The Unofficial Brew Hoop Fantasy Regular Season Awards” — it didn’t win FPOTW because hearing/reading about other peoples’ fantasy leagues doesn’t sell, but I wanted to include it if only because I won a sub-category. Good job by me and the rest of the fantasy folks!
Know Your Enemy (Until SB Nation Ceases to Exist)
San Antonio Spurs - Pounding the Rock - Why this will likely be the only “bad” season for the Spurs
- Really unfortunate that so many words were written about the Spurs near-term future, and none of them were “Sandro Mamukelashvili”. Like the Pistons and Magic, the Spurs could rocket from basement dweller to sneaky playoff team quickly depending on the upcoming draft and continued progress from some young players. For now, it still all about losing their asses off. Hopefully for Spurs fans that’ll shift sooner rather than later.
Utah Jazz - SLC Dunk - Utah Jazz Tanking Guide: 2023
- Second verse, same as the first. The Jazz had been more tank resilient than anyone expected; now their SBN staff is actively tracking nightly matchups across the NBA to determine how Utah can get better draft odds. We thank them for eking out a win over the Celtics even if it is against their best interest.
Denver Nuggets - Denver Stiffs - Denver Nuggets Film Friday: Find the solution
- Good film work chronicling some of Denver’s recent struggles and how they compare to how they were playing earlier in the season. They’re still pretty comfortably in first place out West, so there is cushion to mope about a bit to finish the season, even if it isn’t the best form to be entering the playoffs in.
The Social Media Section
A new front in the war against Bald Satan has opened
Get this mf gone #FireKidd #MFFL pic.twitter.com/9C3OaRcDq5— Nico is my goat (@ScumPablo) March 14, 2023
Famed... Notre Dame alum Pat Connaughton?
Good luck to @MarquetteMBB & @MarquetteWBB today!! pic.twitter.com/7JoZfNrlXT— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 17, 2023
Add Degree to Giannis’s collection of random corporate sponsors
Meanwhile, Jrue’s busy slinging lavender juice
Pop reminding Mamu to channel his inner Magic Johnson
POV: You just lost a game of H-O-R-S-E to a seven-foot tall, 250 pound Fortnite gamer
Just noticing the “Blessed Forever” tattoos
Riley’s 2022-2023 Weekly Prediction Record: 42-29
Milwaukee’s Actual 2022-2023 Record: 51-20
Do I get double points for having last week on the money?
I think they will go 3-1 with a surprise loss to the Indiana Pacers who, led by Jordan Nwora’s vision and stout defensive instincts, will approach a style of play we can only regard as invincible on that night and that night only.
A shorter week is in the offing with three games upcoming. It starts Wednesday at home hosting the San Antonio Spurs. Then the Bucks hit the road to begin a four game road trip with back-to-back games at the Utah Jazz on Friday and at the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
Like last week, I fear the return of Sandro Mamukelashvili and what he may do to Giannis in a showcase revenge game. Give me 2-1 with a loss to the Spurs to keep us all on our toes.