The Milwaukee Bucks are looking to finish the remaining 11 games of the regular season and head into the playoffs with a strong momentum. Currently holding the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 51-20, they are very well aware of the challenge posed by their competitors – Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers – who are in hot pursuit, trailing by just 2.5 games. As such, let’s dive into a few questions that will determine their effectiveness in the final few games of the season.
Can Their Offensive Struggles Be Put to Rest?
One of the undeniable weaknesses of the Bucks’ game this season has been their underperforming offense, which currently holds the 15th spot in the league according to Cleaning the Glass. This is a far cry from their top-5 position in the previous seasons. However, there is a silver lining as the team has seen a decent improvement recently with the addition of Khris Middleton in the backcourt. In his absence, Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been handling the ball more and succeeding to some extent.
Moreover, the Bucks have a decent supporting cast of shooters that adds more depth to their offense. The likes of Brook Lopez, Grayson Allen, Jevon Carter, and Bobby Portis are lethal on a good day and can score points in bunches. Should they continue their strong performances, the Bucks can be a potent offensive threat as they have proven in their recent clash against the Toronto Raptors.
Defensive Tenacity to the Fore
The Bucks’ defense has been impressive this season, with an excellent record of allowing just 107.1 points per game (5th in NBA). Coaching legend Mike Budenholzer’s squad is a tough nut to crack defensively, and even without key defenders like Donte DiVincenzo, they have continued to keep their opponents’ scoring to a minimum.
The presence of expert defenders like Giannis, Holiday, and Lopez plays a significant role in this regard. The Bucks also boast excellent defensive depth in their frontcourt with the likes of Pat Connaughton, Jaxson Hayes, and Brook Lopez. Given their defensive prowess, the Bucks can comfortably shut down their opponents and earn valuable Ws.
Wing Rotation – Who Gets Playing Time?
With the return of Khris Middleton, the Bucks have an excess of wing players that have been performing well recently. Middleton will lead this group, playing over 30 minutes per game, while Jae Crowder and Jae Ingles will likely see at least 20 minutes a piece. This leaves only 18 minutes or so for the likes of Pat Connaughton, Grayson Allen, and Crowder or Ingles.
The Bucks have primarily been relying on Connaughton, who has improved defensively this season and has been an overall positive contributor. However, he has been in a shooting slump which coincides with the time the team has been struggling offensively. With the postseason around the corner, the Bucks must decide which of their many wings will get playing time.
Bucks’ Health: A Concerning Factor?
The Bucks have been without some of their key contributors like Jae Crowder and Wesley Matthews and had to rely on reserves to fill the void. However, their big three of Giannis, Holiday, and Middleton have been available more often than not. Going forward, the team will be looking to keep these players healthy and on the court for the remaining games.
Milwaukee’s Strength in Individual Awards
The Bucks have several players in the discussion for various individual awards, of which Giannis is a top contender for MVP, and Lopez stands a chance at snatching the DPOY award. However, the team and coaches have been adamant that they are focused only on the ultimate goal of winning an NBA Championship, and individual awards come secondary.
With only a few games remaining before the playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks look like one of the hottest teams in the league with their recent surge in form. The importance of their game against Philadelphia 76ers cannot be overstated, as it could be crucial in determining which team finishes on top in the Eastern Conference. Should the Bucks stay healthy, improve their offense, and continue their dominant defense, they can be one of the favorites to win the championship.