Omg the Bucks are down 0-2, but don’t look yet, it’d be too obvious.
Why can’t we look yet?
Well, because the Bucks are supposed to be good?
In this weird 2020 season Milwaukee ranks 1st in wins, margin of victory, defensive rating, pace, effective field goal %, opponent Field Goal %, defensive rebounding % and so, so much more.
They were by far the runaway team before a little thing called COVID-19 put everything on pause.
On top of this they have the likely MVP on their team in Giannis Antetokounmpo, a man who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists across the season. For those who tend to be more casual fans of the NBA, take my word for it, that is elite. Like really, really elite.
Many people had this Bucks team taking on either the Lakers or Clippers in the finals, so it took many by surprise when they began to falter coming into the NBA Bubble.
During those early seeding games they went 3-5, a pretty dismal effort for a team who was head and shoulders above the rest in its conference. These losses however were put down to the fact that they had already secured the number 1 seed in the East and were looking for some rest heading into the playoffs. Some people in the media really said this with a straight face, forgetting that they had an almost 5 month break in between games.
In my opinion, the whole team should’ve played as many minutes as possible in each of these games to acclimatise back to the intensity of the NBA.
Then again, I am a 19-year-old Australian kid writing stories, not a physio or coach.
Their First Round series against a much inferior team in the Orlando Magic was also cause for concern. Milwaukee dropped Game 1 and sent the entire NBA into raptures, surely an 8 seed wouldn’t upset the Bucks and the MVP? Although they came back and won four in a row, it was hardly convincing, their shooting was shaky at best.
That brings us up to right now where they are two games behind the Miami Heat. But why? And more importantly, how?
Well, I think there are many reasons.
The first is glaringly obvious.
Although they are the best defensive team in the NBA they can’t defend the 3 if they tried.
The Bucks rank 30th in field goal attempts, 3-point attempts and 3-point makes.
This means, teams are taking lots of shots against them AND they are also making a lot of the 3’s they take.
That is what happened against Orlando in Game 1.
The Magic made 16 3’s at 40% shooting on a night where they got really hot behind the arc. Lucky for the Bucks, Orlando isn’t a great shooting team and they weren’t able to replicate this across games 2-5.
Looking at Miami though, they are much better from downtown and Milwaukee should be scared of what they are capable of. As a team they have the 2nd best 3pt % in the NBA and have individually elite shooters that can pick up the slack if some aren’t firing.
People like Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Goran Dragic can all put up 8 3’s in a game if needed and that is the exact Achilles Heel of the bucks.
Whilst the 3pt shooting is a massive thorn in the side of the Bucks, what makes it worse is the presence of Jimmy Butler.
Butler (Unfortunately no relation to me), is pretty simply, a shit 3pt shooter. He shot around about 29% on the season which is not great at all. However, this sometimes plays into the strengths of the Heat.
Let's say the Bucks are focusing on limiting 3’s during a game against Miami, Jimmy, an All-star calibre player can easily work his way inside and either grab a layup or a foul.
Now let’s say the Bucks are focusing on limiting Jimmy’s impact on the game by crowding the paint, well their already weak 3pt defence is now even less focused on this and their perimeter players can just shoot Milwaukee into submission.
The Bucks can never centralise their defence and this is what happened in both games 1 and 2.
In game 1, the Heat fed Jimmy and he scored 40 points, shooting 13-20 from the field and 12-13 from the Free throw line.
In game 2, Jimmy only had 18 but the team shot 48% from 3 and had 3 players each hit 3.
The Bucks are getting whiplash every time they play, which Heat team is coming? The Jimmy focused one or the sharpshooting one?
On top of this, outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, you never know which of the Milwaukee Bucks team will show up and play well.
Giannis is always going to give you around 30, 15 and 5. But its people like Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe who you should worry about.
Middleton has always been a hot and cold player and despite almost clinching a 50-40-90 shooting split season sometimes this was because he’d have 10 points on that shooting as opposed to the 22ish he is averaging.
Bledsoe has always been a choker in the playoffs too. Just think back to 2018 when he got clamped up and well out played by Terry Rozier III, a player who compared to him absolutely shouldn’t have had the success he did.
Players like the Lopez brothers and Donte DiVincenzo can’t be expected to pick up the slack here. They are supposed to be complimentary players, not the 2nd and 3rd stars. So its great to see Brook drop 21 points in Game 2, but that shouldn’t be what he is there for.
If there weren’t even more problems in the Bucks organisation, I think their coach, Mike Budenholzer has to take some of the blame here too.
Now it is extremely easy to bash a coach and say their game plan isn’t up to scratch, especially when they aren’t winning games that they are expected to.
But, there is one fundamental flaw in his scheme and that is quite simply his player rotation.
Essentially coach Bud likes to play deep, he likes to play all of his players in somewhat ‘limited’ minutes to leave them fresh and ready to perform when needed too.
This is why the Bucks are such an incredible regular season team but such a slack playoff team. Whilst other teams increase the minutes that their stars are playing to averages of at least 40 per night, coach Bud and the Bucks keep the same workload having their best players average 35ish minutes per night.
Of course this doesn’t seem like a great deal, but when you consider an NBA quarter is 12 minutes it means that Giannis and others are literally playing half a quarter less than their counterparts, more then enough time to swing the momentum.
If I am the Bucks, I am absolutely worried about what this means for not only the team but the entire city too.
Lets say that the series gets turned around and Milwaukee has to face either Boston or Toronto in the Eastern Conference Finals. Both of these teams are at the moment looking much stronger than the Bucks and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they were to get beaten by either of these teams.
This begs the question, what happens to the Bucks if/when this happens?
Well already being down 0-2, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive with whether Giannis is on his way out of Wisconsin.
This summer he is eligible to resign with the Bucks before he becomes a free agent in 2021 and many pundits are already theorising that he is on the way out.
The most substantial of these rumours is this whole Antetokounmpo to Golden State story line that would team him up with Stephen Curry, creating a dominant duo. But this is simply one of the many that has been floated by those with more NBA insider knowledge than me.
In the end, it doesn’t matter where he goes, because the team AND the city will be severely damaged by his departure.
Giannis is the best player the team has had since Ray Allen and he would bring in ridiculous amounts of cash to what is in reality one of the smaller markets in the NBA.
They can’t afford to lose him.
Despite being 0-2 down, the Bucks have held steady as $1.48 favourite’s on PlayUp, but to me this is ambitious at best.
Miami at $2.72 seems like a much safer bet with the momentum they are carrying.
But hey, maybe this is just a little hiccup on the way to Championship success?
That’s why you should be wary of what is happening, but don’t quite look yet, the are only down 0-2.
Anything can happen in the NBA and if one man can bend a series too his will then its Giannis.