January was far from kind to Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo was announced as an All Star starter midway through the month, but that was pretty much the lone bright spot, as the Bucks posted a 5-10 record during the month, and quickly slid out of a spot in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, early February has been just as harsh. In the midst of a bad slump, the team looked forward to seeing guard Khris Middleton return from what had been a season long hamstring injury and help get them back towards a place in the playoffs.
Last Wednesday, in the game that Middleton returned to the rotation, budding star and second-leading scorer on the team Jabari Parker tore his ACL…again. The heartbreaking injury sent the team spiraling, as they ended up getting soundly beaten by the red hot Miami Heat that night, and followed it up by getting embarrassed defensively en route to a loss at home versus a poor Lakers team.
So why should fans remain optimistic?
The Bucks refuse to give up. Coach Jason Kidd continues to implore his team to fight each night, and the young roster has started to answer his calls again. Giannis continues to show that he is going to be an MVP-caliber player in years to come, Thon Maker – who is just 19 – has looked solid in his newly increased role, and Khris Middleton will fill a large chunk of the scoring void for Parker while supplying the much needed perimeter threat the Bucks have missed all season.
Milwaukee has won their last two games, first at Indiana in convincing fashion on Saturday 116-100, then taking out the Pistons 102-89 at the Bradley Center on Monday. The bench has been stepping up in the wins during Parker’s absence, providing 55 points against a good Pacers team before adding 49 points against the Pistons.
Greg Monroe has looked great rebounding on the glass, and is scoring efficiently in the paint of late. Malcolm Brogdon has continued to be a valuable asset on both sides of the ball as a rookie, and early-season acquisition Tony Snell has been finding his rhythm from three, nailing 11 of his 19 attempts from deep over the last four games.
If Khris Middleton can be the great player he was last season and the Bucks can continue to step up on the defensive end as they have in their back-to-back wins, a playoff push is very possible. With their current 24-30 record on the season, Milwaukee sits just two victories behind the eighth seeded Detroit Pistons at 26-30, and have plenty of time to make up ground.
The team will travel to Brooklyn tonight to face the league-worst Nets (9-46) before taking nine days off for the All Star Break. Make sure you tune in this Sunday to see Giannis put on a show in the All Star Game, and keep your heads up Milwaukee fans — this team is playing inspired basketball. There is still plenty to cheer for.