After a series of discouraging weeks, we finally seem to have a positive seven day period for the Milwaukee Bucks. After things looked as if they could be going south after a hair-pulling defeat in our nation’s capitol, the Bucks repositioned the compass north and rebounded, winning their next two games against teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. Credit needs to be handed out where it’s due. Here are some of the things we learned in the past week about this Bucks team.
The Bucks responded positively following their calamity of turnovers in Washington. In a game in which they only lost by five points, the average fan didn’t’ even have enough fingers (and toes for that matter) to count all of the “what if” moments that may have changed the outcome for Milwaukee. The blaring glare that stood out from that game was the number of turnovers the Bucks had throughout the evening. It pains me to even look back at that horrendous box score and look at the massive number of 27 turnovers the Bucks gave away to the Wizards. It’s even more disparaging to interpret the 36 points the Wizards were awarded off of those turnovers. The Bucks were unable to change the momentum in the that category throughout the game, as in both the first and fourth quarters, at least eight changes of possession were granted to Washington, making the road to victory even easier for them. After that game, the Bucks could have continued to have trouble on the offensive side and continued to play sloppy and disorganized offense. However, they quickly turned it around and played a well-rounded offensive game against the Atlanta Hawks, one of the top tier teams in the Eastern Conference and ended up defeating them in overtime. In fact, two games later against the Hornets, the Bucks completely flipped the script in the turnover department, as they generated seven more turnovers than Charlotte, resulting in 22 points off of them. Kudos to Sean Sweeney and Joe Prunty for making the 180 degree turn and turning what was a negative into a positive.
In a stretch against teams all ahead of them, Joe Prunty has done a terrific job of keeping the ship afloat. This part of the schedule has been somewhat of a daunting task for Prunty and the Bucks, as the Wizards, Hawks and Hornets were all teams that all had Milwaukee in their rearview mirrors in the standings. Despite the difference in the wins and losses columns, Prunty and his coaching staff developed strong gameplans for each of those teams that nearly saw Milwaukee run the table with them. Things weren’t made easy for the Bucks either, as a thin bench has made rotations and substitutions even tougher for the coaching staff. O.J. Mayo has been unable to make his presence known in the last couple games but the Bucks have fared well without him, going on a small two-game win streak. Prunty deserves credit for keeping the ship on its voyage with Kidd absent as he recovers from his hip surgery. As it stands now, the Bucks are only five games behind the eighth seed in the playoff race. Now, as to whether or not the Bucks fans should want Milwaukee to pursue that final slot in the Eastern Conference playoffs remains a whole different argument, but now’s not the time for that. Instead, appreciate the work and motivation Prunty has brought this team in a time in which success has seemed bleak.
Sharing the basketball has made scoring a more consistent moving cog in this offense. The Bucks have one of the weakest offenses in the NBA, there’s no disputing it. Their 98.3 points per game currently sits 24th in the league and it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to begin to climb the ranks any time soon. However, just because they are in the bottom realms of total team offense does not mean they are unable to win any games. One of the reasons behind that is their ability to share the basketball. Milwaukee is in the top ten (7th) in the league in assists per game at 23.3 dimes. Their willingness to get hoops off the extra pass results in a higher probability shot and chance to answer a previous score by an opponent. It also impacts the scoring on the team, taking a load off of players such as Giannis and Khris Middleton. In their last three games, the Bucks have had at least three players reach double figures. In their most two recent games, at least four players have reached that watermark. Sharing the basketball makes it tougher on the defense to fully seal off any scoring generated by Milwaukee. We all know teams are realizing the scoring capabilities of Khris Middleton. Articles from NBA writers all across the league are being published as I type this, all discussing his ability of going under the radar yet still being able to generate high offensive numbers. However, with a consistent offense, players such as Jabari and Monroe and even MCW are able to attack the pores of opposing defenses, resulting in a higher consistency of putting the ball in the hoop and thus, a higher chance of victory. Hopefully the Bucks stay in the top tier of the league in the assists category, as their success seems to fluctuate with it.