The view of the Milwaukee Bucks from 30,000 feet is quite calm, based on the team’s ambitions for the regular season 2020-21.
It is the 30-foot view that has so many nervous fans, skeptics of the media and encouraged opponents.
When Milwaukee faces the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night in the sixth game of the eight games, near the end of the first half of the season, they will ask more questions than answers. This is not awful, but it certainly feels different.
At 116-39 in the last two regular seasons, the Bucks did not necessarily understand things – it seemed like that. Their collapse against Toronto in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals after leading the top 2-0 series and their abrupt mission from Miami in 2020 to the conference semifinals shocked and exposed a team that had outperformed 82 games. one season, 73 the next.
The Bucks’ 19-13 season so far has been more than just a robe. Grind? Sometimes. An obstetric course through unknown forests without a map or a compass? This can be even closer.
The funny thing is, as worrying as it is for the team and its fans – the Bucks would have to go 37-4 to match last season’s record (and there are 41 games left) – it was somewhat predictable.
And although it was somewhat predictable, it is still a bit worrying. Milwaukee continues to toss that coin, with no other effect possible, frankly, until mid-May.
This is life for a team whose success or failure has been completely transferred to the postseason. For all the roster changes implemented by general manager Jon Horst in the short offseason, for any adjustments made by coach Mike Budenholzer offensively or defensively, for any improvements the Kia MVP reigns twice Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates became their skills, eight -The stones will block their way during the regular season:
They are the playoffs, pallets.
So figuring out who the “real” Bucks team is right now – the flat bunch that fell five straight recently or the guys who made eight wins around this skid – is not only challenging but heartless.
What seemed so real in the last two seasons turned out not to be. It looked like gold, finished like iron silica.
Falling five consecutive games from Feb. 10 to 18, losing to Phoenix, Utah, Oklahoma City and Toronto (twice), the Bucks won 36.6% on 3 points and averaged 13 3 points. This is far from 42.9 percent and 16.4 percent of them in wins.
Averaging only 42.4 rebounds, they committed 21 fouls per game and had a score of 110.3 / 118.3. Their opponents gained a total of 50.3%, 39.9% in 3 points and made 23.8 free throws per game at 120.4 ppg.
The messages from Budenholzer and the players were to stay on track, to learn and, as Antetokounmpo put it, four defeats, not to panic.
“I say many times when things go wrong, that’s where you get better,” Antetokounmpo said when the slip hit five. “There you stand out, there you improve. Alternatively, you can do the opposite, just go home and stop. Or you can keep fighting. “
In a way, the assurances were correct, but not so convincing.
The three-game winning streak, averaging 17.7 points, was against OKC, Sacramento and Minnesota. So far, Milwaukee is 3-5 against Brooklyn, Boston, Indiana, Toronto and Miami (and has not yet played Philadelphia).
The Bucks have returned to be one of the top three teams in the top ten in terms of attack and defense (Utah and Phoenix are the others). It is among the top five in the standings, goal-to-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, 3 points scored per game, score difference and net score.
However, they are ranked 24ου at a defensive rate of 3 points, compared to 15ου Last season. They are 1-9 when they overtake, 5-13 when the other team shoots 45% or better. The Bucks have only won one game all season in which they failed to score 100 points. And it’s 0-10 when three quarters follow, a real measure of flatness.
Individually, there are a few red flags. Antetokounmpo remains a force at both ends of the floor and will start again in the fifth All-Star game. He and Nikola Djokic of Denver are the only players with an average of at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game.
Khris Middleton, who starred in “The Greek Freak” as an All-Star for the past two seasons, was considered a “mysterious coach” when he did not reach a backup in 2021. Statistically he has an almost mirror season until 2019-20 (20, 3 ppg, 5.7 apg) while chasing again this vague club 50/40/90 in shooting percentages. (Only five players in NBA history have averaged at least 20 points.)
During the five games lost, Middleton averaged 16.6 ppg and was a member of the 40/30/70 club. With the important off-season acquisition, Jrue Holiday, Middleton faced an aggressive double team and lost almost as many turnovers (4.4) as he had assists (4.6).
Holidays have not been played since February 6 due to health and safety protocols. His position to face the former Pelican team on Thursday was unclear. Milwaukee went 4-5 without him, even when Holiday and the Bucks were adjusting to each other before the dismissal.
Center Brook Lopez was more expensive than last season inside and out. However, his score is slightly flawed, his free throw rate has slowed down and the second team All-Defensive pick in 2019-20 has a rate of 46.2 blocks (after 60.2% last season).
Donte DiVincenzo’s two-way play was useful, although his best role may be away from home instead of starting to shoot a guard with Wesley Matthews. The bench itself was a mixed bag, with Bobby Poris being a big shooting buzz, DJ Augustin running with his shot and Torrey Craig finding minutes even harder.
Everything leaves the Bucks where, exactly? They can learn and improve. They could find themselves at the top of the playoffs and fight for some focus in the meantime.
Mostly, where they are now, it seems to be at a dead end.
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Steve Aschburner has been writing for the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his file here and follow him on Twitter.
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