Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Milwaukee Bucks are the best team in the NBA, based on the early March standings. Their opponent tonight – the Orlando Magic – is struggling to find a viable direction and presents an opportunity for the Bucks to bank another win in the left-hand column as we head down this final stretch towards the playoffs.
Sometimes you gotta play the greatest hits.
Where We’re At
It was all good just a week ago for the Bucks, but somehow things have taken a turn for the...better? After bringing themselves all the way up to the Boston Celtics’ level by the NBA All-Star break, the Bucks have found themselves 2.0 games ahead of second place as Boston lost their third straight game in incredibly entertaining fashion:
“I’ll make them both” pic.twitter.com/pZIFUyhIQq— Russillo (@ryenarussillo) March 7, 2023
(Narrator: He did, in fact, not hit both.)
But you can head on over to CelticsBlog for any (respectful!) schadenfreude; the Bucks are famous for focusing their attention inwards and controlling what they can control, which is themselves. On that front, things are...okay. Not great, but okay! The team is exercising the outstanding depth that’s been developed for this postseason run, and that depth has provided the support the team relied on for eking out wins the past few weeks. Just ask Jevon!
"This team, we're 10 deep." pic.twitter.com/EDyEu0ODv0— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 6, 2023
However, the two main stars are not yet shining at their brightest. First, Khris Middleton still has not returned to his normal duties in the starting lineup. The team is being careful with him, naturally, and caution is a virtue when it comes to saving yourself for when it matters most. But when an All-Star caliber wing is limited to playing fewer than 30 minutes per game and is still skipping the second game of back-to-backs, it’s cause for concern. And when that happens in March? It’s cause for worry!
Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo is, once again, a legitimate MVP, DPOY, best-player-alive candidate...and he’s still playing below his standards in the last few games. In the team’s loss to Philly, Giannis had some uncharacteristic poor plays down the stretch that helped support the Sixers’ incredible comeback, and against Washington he couldn’t even make a wide-open layup at the end of the game.
Giannis just threw himself a rebound at the buzzer to get a triple double.https://t.co/seAh8ChWxh pic.twitter.com/nPgHIPTVAB— Sherwob Holmes (@WorldWideWob) March 6, 2023
It didn’t count. For tonight’s game, the Bucks should be missing only Wes Matthews (who’s been out since February 16) while the Magic are expecting to play without Wendell Carter Jr, Gary Harris, and Johnathan Isaac.
Player To Watch
Let’s check in on Jae Crowder; after 6 games, he’s playing an active role in the rotation and shooting the ball well enough to justify Milwaukee’s pursuit of his services. At this stage of the season, Crowder’s main goal is ensuring that he’s on the same page as his teammates and that his conditioning allows him to play as many minutes as the game situation dictates. Early returns have been positive; Crowder is basically a more mobile PJ Tucker who can shoot threes above the break, and by all indications he’s ingratiated himself to the rest of the locker room. Who knew that 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 17.3 minutes per game could be so exciting?
Game 65: Against Orlando, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)
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