I did it. I really did it. I looked in the mirror, said:
No wait. Not that. I looked in the mirror and said:
For the first time in my lifelong, extremely tumultuous relationship with the Milwaukee Bucks, I am officially a season ticket holder. Due to this unprecedented event in my life, I’ve been waiting for schedule-release day like t’was the night before Christmas. In my state of agitated anticipation, I’ve decided to look back at last year and pick out three games worth a re-watch. I’m looking for games that might provide us some type of lesson or information for the upcoming season (for which I have season tickets, did I mention that?). Spoiler warning: I’ve chosen three losses because you always learn more in a loss than you do in a victory. Let’s hit recent memory lane.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS AT ATLANTA HAWKS
I already hear your complaints:
The Hawks? Their ceiling is a 7-seed, why would I watch this?
There’s no Giannis in this game, who cares if we lost?
Oh wait, there’s no Middleton either, could this loss be more irrelevant?
No Bledsoe either?! WTF, Slack?!
First of all, don’t curse at me. Second of all, this game is a blast to watch. It’s an overtime thriller forefronting the Bucks’ young talent while all the big names throw everything they have into being a proper bench mob. It feels great to watch a team pull for each other like this, all the way down the bench.
It feels even better to watch Sterling Brown with a 27-9-3 line against the Hawks’ starters. Wilson gets a lot of Twitter noise and might be better defensively but I see Brown with more potential effect on the team this season. In this game, he consistently got a corner on defenders and finished well at the rim in clutch situations. Oh and he shot a gaudy 5 of 10 from the arc. If Brown becomes a contributor off the bench, this is the game that gave us a preview.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS AT BOSTON CELTICS
Here we see the Celtics firing on all cylinders which is something I expect more of this upcoming season now that they’ve solved a problem like Kyrie. (For special bonus video-grinding, check out Walker’s hapless Hornets best the Bucks later in November.) Granted, the C’s lost Al Horford to some other Eastern Conference monster but Gordon Hayward might finally be back to form after his devastating injury. And even if he’s not, this game is an example of how potent Brad Stevens’ system can be when everybody’s buying in. I expect the Celtics to be competing for a top-3 seed this season.
The Celtics stretched out the Bucks’ NBA-best defense and bombed away for 24 three-pointers. While Boston controlled the majority of the game, the Bucks did make a run and gave Giannis an opportunity to tie the game with 20 seconds left. Giannis got Horford one-on-one in the open court and couldn’t finish his post-move. One possession later, Giannis could have stretched out the game by hitting two free throws but instead went 1-for-2 at the charity stripe. Giannis is a singular talent but these are two areas we can hope to see him improve this season. In crunch time and the postseason, Giannis needs to expand his ability to get separation for open looks. And he needs to get his free throw percentage up over 80%.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS VS PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
This is the Eastern Conference Finals preview for 2020 and possibly beyond. Giannis and Joel Embiid are the two front runners for the 2020 MVP race and they are both turned up to eleven here. There’s nothing better than when two superstars are personally invested in showing the world their superiority. If Embiid stays healthy, this could be a preview of the association’s next great rivalry. It’s two athletic anomalies doing things that no one at their size has ever done in NBA history.
In this preview we see Giannis ostensibly get the better of Embiid. Giannis posted more assists, grabbed more rebounds and scored 12 more points at a higher efficiency. But he lost. Even with a transcendent, career game from the Freak, the Bucks take the L. As a team, the Bucks shot 45% from the field and 32% from behind the arc but allowed the Sixers to shoot 47% from both. That leads us to the biggest question surrounding the 2018-2019: did they get Giannis enough help in the offseason?
That’s the key not just to this Bucks season but beyond as well. The clock is running on the front office to build a championship contender in Milwaukee. And as we saw in this game, Giannis can’t do it alone.