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The Whiteboard: What’s changed for Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks?

The Whiteboard is The Step Again’s day by day basketball e-newsletter, protecting the NBA, WNBA and extra. Subscribe here to get it delivered to you by way of e-mail every morning.

Just some weeks in the past, it seemed just like the Milwaukee Bucks have been coming aside on the seams. A five-game shedding streak (with three by double-digits) introduced loads of Giannis trolling, some quiet rumblings about whether or not Mike Budenholzer was truly the correct coach for this staff and loads of hand-wringing concerning the precise ceiling of a staff that has adopted two juggernaut common seasons with disastrous playoff wipeouts.

However, heading into the All-Star Break, issues are wanting decidedly up. The Bucks’ adopted that five-game shedding streak with a five-game profitable streak, together with a five-point win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. They at the moment maintain one of the best offensive effectivity mark within the league and their defensive effectivity (the hallmark of their final two seasons) has crept again in direction of the top-10.

What’s modified for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks?

A few of this sizzling streak is development to the imply however we’re additionally seeing some encouraging indicators — if not for his or her means to get deeper into the playoffs, then no less than to keep away from falling off earlier than they even get there.

Giannis has been a monster over the past 5 video games, averaging 35.6 factors, 13.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per recreation, capturing 55.0 % from the sector and attending to the road 12.6 occasions per recreation. Some Bucks followers have been calling for Giannis to be getting extra selection in his touches, much less time spent attacking exterior the 3-point arc towards a set and static protection. We haven’t actually seen it throughout this stretch — he’s had barely fewer elbow touches and extra drives throughout this stretch however he’s performed a greater job changing his drives into scoring alternatives. Over the previous 5 video games, 59.1 % of his drives have resulted in a shot try or journey to the free-throw line, in comparison with 54.9 % for the season previous to this profitable streak.

We’ve additionally seen the Bucks slowly adapt to the absence of Jrue Vacation, who has been out for primarily this complete 10-game streak, the 5 wins and 5 losses. Khris Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo have each been extra aggressive off the dribble over the 5 latest wins.

However the largest distinction for the Bucks has come on the defensive finish. Via the primary 29 video games of the season, they have been permitting a median of 110.8 factors per 100 possessions, roughly league common. Over their final 5, they’ve surrendered simply 105.5. The Bucks have benefited from some struggling offenses — the Thunder and Timberwolves are bottom-five in offensive effectivity. However they’ve additionally held up towards the Kings, Pelicans and Clippers who’re all top-10 in offensive effectivity.

The Bucks’ protection has been giving up a variety of wide-open 3-pointers throughout this stretch and benefitting from some chilly capturing from opponents however the defensive enchancment can’t be attributed solely to luck. Defending the paint is the core of their protection and so they’ve been ready to do this these days with out fouling to an absurd diploma. In Sunday’s win towards the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George mixed for 32 drives with out drawing a single capturing foul (on the season they’ve drawn a foul on 8.3 and 9.1 % of their drives, respectively). Between their foul avoidance and the elevated aggressiveness on drives by their ball-handlers, the Bucks have outscored their opponents by 37 factors on the free-throw line over their final 5 video games.

There aren’t any dramatic traits of their technique or efficiency at both finish, nevertheless it’s necessary to see the Bucks, in small methods, gravitating again towards what made them so good the previous two years and seeing success. As Tom Ziller factors out, the last word take a look at for the Bucks will come within the playoffs and even should you’re not rooting for them the sector is infinitely extra attention-grabbing after they’re firing on all cylinders. They’re wanting a lot nearer to that degree proper now and the highest finish of the East is immediately wanting loads more durable.

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