Bucks Continue Winning Ways

Head coach Jason Kidd has officially proven himself as one of the best coaches in the NBA. No longer is Kidd a coach who is brimming with potential, he left that cliché behind when he continued to win despite a rash of injuries that left the Bucks with a three man bench multiple times this season. Giannis Antetokounmpo has grown from a “Greek Freak” to a “Greek Star” under Kidd’s tutelage. Not often does a small forward shoot over 50% from the field, especially when being asked to defend the opponents best offensive player on the other end of the court. Giannis has uncharacteristic length and has used it to his advantage, forcing defenses into multiple turnovers every game. Antetokounmpo’s strength is actually a strength of the entire Bucks starting lineup, and they have parlayed that into being the second best defense in the league.

Remember the “Fear the Deer” phase in Milwaukee? That team was built to fail. Any playoff team that is forced to turn to John Salmons as its crunch time scorer is destined for failure. Remember the Monta Ellis/Brandon Jennings combo experiment? That team was built to fail. Playing two guards who struggle at both shooting and passing the basketball is a recipe for disaster. Yes, Jennings and Ellis were dynamic guards but both had a shoot first mentality while neither could approach shooting 45% on the season. Both teams had defenses that fizzled when under pressure and were unable to hold strong against rallies by better teams. While other teams went on scoring runs, both Jennings and Ellis struggled to connect on much needed three-pointer’s, shooting 33.2% and 26.7% respectively.

Current Bucks guard Brandon Knight may only be shooting 43% on the year but he is shooting 40% from beyond the arc. That 40% helps Knight put up decent scoring numbers without having to dominate the ball like Ellis and Jennings did. While Knight has drained the ball from deep, Antetokounmpo has dominated the glass with his long arms, quick reflexes, and leaping ability. Joining Antetokounmpo in averaging over 50% on the year is center John Henson and shooting guard Jared Dudley. Dudley has been a revelation since his acquisition from the Phoenix Suns. He has the ability to diagnose offenses from anywhere on the court and his length and athleticism make him the perfect fit alongside Antetokounmpo. Dudley’s three-point shooting has also been lights out at 44.1% so far this year. Khris Middleton is shooting 42.2% from downtown while forming possibly the longest armed shooting guard-small forward-power forward combination with Dudley and Antetokounmpo. Their long arms have held opponents to roughly 95 points per 48 minutes which is one of the best marks in the NBA.

The formula for winning in the postseason is defense and three’s. For proof, simply look at the last three championship winners. The Miami Heat were known for their defensive toughness during both championship runs, and when they needed to close the game out they turned to Lebron in the paint and open three’s in the corners. Last year, San Antonio put an end-cap to their dynasty by doing exactly what they have done best for over a decade: defend and shoot three’s.

Barring a great run or a huge collapse, the Bucks will most likely lock up the sixth seed come playoff time, matching them with either Chicago, Cleveland, or Washington in most scenarios. Being able to jump up and face the Washington Wizards instead of Chicago or Cleveland would be a godsend and may lead the Bucks deeper into the playoffs than they have been since 2001.

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