Bucks have to find ways to win at less than full strength

Milwaukee (AP) — More than halfway through the regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks haven’t had much opportunity to show how much they can play at their full strength.

The Bucks’ three biggest stars — two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, three-time All-Star Khris Middleton, and Gro Holiday — have played together in just five of Milwaukee’s 45 games.

This situation has led to some misfortunes. Since starting the season with a nine-game winning streak, the Bucks have gone 20-16.

“There were nights when we didn’t play as well as we needed to,” Bucks coach Mike Bodenholzer said. “Some nights it’s both parties. Other nights it’s one or the other. So we’re a work in progress. But I think we’re still confident in the group and excited about where we’re going.”

The Bucks are hoping to regain two key pieces soon.

Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo “did pretty much everything” coaching the Bucks on Thursday as they prepare for Saturday’s game in Cleveland. Antetokounmpo has missed the Bucks’ last four games due to left knee soreness.

Middleton had a scheduled day off Thursday, but he was working with the Wisconsin Hurd, the Bucks’ NBA G League affiliate.

The Bucks’ biggest hurdle thus far has been the health of Middleton, who has appeared in just seven games.

After he underwent surgery on his left wrist Last summer, Middleton missed the Bucks’ first 20 games before he made his debut in the season Dec 2. He last played on December 15th and has been dealing with a sore right knee ever since.

They weren’t as consistent as usual without him.

The Bucks are 18th in 3-point percentage (.355) After finishing fifth in that category each of the last two seasons (.389 in 2020-21 and 366 in 2021-22 ). They commit 15.2 turnover per game to put it at its highest rate since then 2015-16, when they also had 15.2 per game.

Yet they still are second in the Eastern Conference, Four games behind the Boston Celtics but 1 1/2 games behind fifth-ranked Cleveland. Given how little the Bucks can play together, the key is to create cohesion once everyone is healthy.

“It’s about the work that’s going to go into it, with the players coming back, making sure we all find rhythm and chemistry and things together hopefully before the All-Star break, but obviously obviously doing that push after the All-Star break,” said Pat Connaughton, “to make sure that Everyone is in tune, everyone knows their roles and responsibilities and we are playing our best basketball on the brighter and brighter days here in Milwaukee.”

The Bucks have stayed near the top of the East thanks to some exceptional individual performances.

Late last month, Antetokounmpo started a four-game stretch in which he averaged 43.3 points, 18.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists. This included a 123-113 victory over Washington As he scored a career-high 55 points.

Antetokounmpo averages a career-high 31 points, Although he also has a career-high 4 turnover per game and has the lowest overall shooting percentage (. 524) since 2016-17.

Brook Lopez, who played just 13 regular season games last year due to a back injury that required surgery, missed just one game all season. He has career highs of 3 points (. 401) and blocks per game (2.5).

Bobby Portez averaged a double With a career-high 14.2 points and a career-high 10 rebounds per game.

But it was the holiday that really came to me lately.

Holiday helped the Bucks win back-to-back games without Antetokounmpo or Middleton this week by scoring 35 points against Indiana And 37 against Toronto on consecutive days. Holiday teammates are clamoring to make the All-Star Game, something that hasn’t happened since 2013 when he was with Philadelphia.

After the Raptors game, Holiday was asked what makes an All-Star.

“I don’t know, if you want me to be completely honest,” Holiday said. “You score a lot. You make the game fun. Highlights. Lots of dunks. I don’t do any of that, so I don’t know how I’m going to be an All-Star. I’ve been scoring a lot, but I don’t dunk. I don’t run fast. I don’t yell and scream.” .I feel it is entertainment as well as winning.

“That’s one thing that I think our team has done really well is win, and the guys step up on our team when our big dogs get stuck, and be able to play well.”


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