Where do I even begin? This Bucks season has been a never-ending rollercoaster ride. Bucks fans were filled with hope and optimism that the team would build off of their 42-40 record last season and potentially contend for the Eastern Conference title. Here we are in March, and that is looking less and less likely. What has been going on with the Bucks? In my opinion, it’s a combination of key injuries and a tough stretch of games in their schedule.
The Bucks have been extremely tough to watch over the past couple of weeks. They have lost four straight games and five of their last six. During this stretch of six games, they have been allowing teams to score 116.00 PPG. When Jason Kidd was fired in January and Joe Prunty took over as the interim head coach, you could see a huge change in the Bucks defensively. They were finally defending the perimeter better and looked a lot more organized. The Bucks got off to a hot start during the Prunty Era, going 7-1 in their first 8 games. Ever since the all-star break, however, the Bucks have struggled to shut teams down defensively like they were at the beginning of Prunty’s reign. It doesn’t help that the Bucks currently have three of their top guards sitting on the bench with injuries. Malcolm Brogdon is out for another month with a partially torn quad, Matthew Dellavedova has been out recently with an ankle sprain, and starter Tony Snell is still listed as day-to-day with a right thigh contusion. These are all big injuries for the Bucks as Jason Terry has had to play extended minutes and has even started a game. The 40-year-old guard has played well off of the bench for the Bucks when they could use a spark, but starting Terry and having him finish games on the court for your team in 2018 is a problem.
Last night’s game at home against the Pacers was the tipping point for me. I sat there and watched as the Bucks crawled back in the fourth quarter and reeled me in, giving me hope that they might actually make a comeback. That was definitely false hope as the Pacers went on to win the game 103-96. The Bucks came out flat yet again and Giannis continued to struggle to get going. It was a close game throughout, but the ever dreaded third quarter saw the Pacers take their biggest lead of the night. The third quarter has seemed to be where the Bucks have let teams take advantage of them. They come out of the halftime break lacking energy and explosiveness. Over the last six games, the Bucks have been outscored 187-154 in the third quarter of games. All of these games have been close besides the one played in Detroit. This shows that the Bucks are in games, but letting teams get away from them in the third quarter. It has been hard for the Bucks to crawl back in games in the fourth quarter, especially with Brogdon, Delly, and Snell all out. In last night’s game, the Bucks had a total of 15 assists as a team. You can definitely see the importance of players like Brogdon and Delly being on the sideline who can bring great court vision and passing to the team.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has not been the same player since the all-star break. He has been trying to drive on teams and score in the paint like he has all year, but teams are finally getting physical with him and forcing him to kick out to the perimeter on many occasions. Having watched almost every game this season, you can tell that he has been settling for a lot more jump shots, something that he has still not perfected. He came out after the game against Detroit and said that he needs to be more aggressive. I can’t say that I saw that out of him last night.
Giannis season stats:
Giannis after all-star break:
It’s clear that he has not been the same player since the break offensively. He has struggled to get to the free throw line and has not been scoring at will like he is capable of doing. His assist totals were up slightly over this stretch. This is because he has had to take over some of the point guard duties that usually are taken by Brogdon or Delly. He has been more passive but the team needs him to be more aggressive.
When you couple Giannis’ poor performances with injuries and a tough schedule, you probably can’t be too mad about the Bucks recent stretch. During this poor six game stretch, they have played 5 playoff teams. This is something we have seen all season with the Bucks. They have struggled to win when playing good teams and are 13-22 against teams over .500. That obviously needs to change if they want to have any shot of making a deep playoff run. With only 20 games left and seeding in the East up for grabs, the Bucks need to start winning now. It won’t get any easier for them as they play Philly, Indiana, and Houston in their next three games. The fans need to see more intensity on both sides of the ball and consistency throughout games. When the Bucks are fully healthy again, I think all will be right. Until then, they are going to have to scrap out some wins against some tough teams. Just please, Joe Prunty, stop playing Thon Maker in basketball games. The Bucks go again on Sunday night in Milwaukee against Joel Embiid and the 76ers.