The Milwaukee Bucks are skidding.
The Bucks’ streak of 100+ point regular season games ends at 83 — good for the third longest in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/36zxcuBDke
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 1, 2020
Well, at least by their standards.
The Bucks fail to score 100 points in two straight games. TIME TO PANIC pic.twitter.com/LCMO0ELo0r
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 3, 2020
In their last two games, the Bucks are averaging a paltry 91 points per game, far from their league-leading 119.1 points per game.
They also lost on Monday in Miami, ending a 6-game win streak. Not a big deal, but something.
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) March 3, 2020
So, what is behind the Bucks’ latest loss and their nine losses on the season? Well, there are a few patterns that have appeared in those losses that are worth monitoring going into the postseason.
Let’s start with how Milwaukee defends the three-point line – or at least attempts to.
In eight of their nine losses, the Bucks have given up a combined 144 made three-point field goals, which comes out to an average of 18 three-pointers per game.
The Bucks give up a league-leading 13.8 threes per game.
In addition, four of those nine losses have come to Eastern Conference opponents, teams they would presumably have to go through to reach the NBA Finals: Boston, Philadelphia, and now twice to Miami.
#MILvsMIA Final: HEAT 105 – Bucks 89
🔥 Crowder 18pts, 4rebs, 4asts
🔥 Butler 18pts, 7asts, 6rebs
🔥 Dragic 15pts, 4rebs, 4asts
🔥 Adebayo 14pts, 12rebs, 5asts, 4blks
🔥 Nunn 13pts, 8rebs, 2asts
🔥 Olynyk 11pts, 2asts pic.twitter.com/GN8gabmVnp
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 3, 2020
In those four losses, the Celtics made 17 three-pointers, the 76ers made 21, and the Heat have made 34 over the course of two games.
Coach Mike Budenholzer’s defensive principles involve dropping the bigs to the free throw line on pick-and-roll coverage, so if a team is equipped to stroke it from the outside, it proves problematic for the Bucks.
The second red flag – the biggest red flag – about the Bucks’ handful of losses this season has been the play of their two All-Stars in them.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) March 3, 2020
Giannis Antetokounmpo has scored his season average of 29.6 points in only three of the Bucks’ nine losses. In five of those games, he has shot less than his season average of 55.1 percent from the field.
Khris Middleton has scored less than 20 points in four of those nine losses, and scored less than 10 in one of them.
Bam locked up Giannis 😳 pic.twitter.com/b6CzQpRsqa
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 3, 2020
It’s a small sample size, we know. But when those guys don’t play well, the Bucks lose.
Despite their 70-win pace, this isn’t Golden State.
“Milwaukee should be talked about like Golden Sate. They’re clearly the team to beat. We’ve got to get through the West, which is going to be extremely hard, but if we make it to the Finals it’s going to be a tough time.” — @dmorey pic.twitter.com/Ap6wjvkZs8
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) March 3, 2020
Over the last few seasons, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant could afford to have off-nights. They had backup.
Milwaukee? Not so much.
The issue of Giannis’ struggles translating into failure for the Bucks is the same issue that plagued Milwaukee in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
I’ll take Miami second round!!! 🤷🏾♂️
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) March 3, 2020
In that series, Giannis averaged 22.7 points on 44.4 percent shooting, way down from his regular season average of 27.7 points on 57.8 percent shooting.
The Bucks currently have a record of 52-9, so all is not lost in Milwaukee. However, their ultimate goal is to be playing in June.
Whether Antetokounmpo and Middleton can raise their games this postseason, and whether Milwaukee as a team can improve its perimeter defense, will determine the Bucks fate.
Easier said than done.
Source: Fox Sports