With the leaves starting to change colors and Wisconsinites unpacking their winter armor for the inevitable frigid temperatures, it is finally time for another season of Milwaukee Bucks basketball. Following a promising performance in Coach Mike Budenholzer’s first season, the Bucks will attempt to build on their deep playoff run last season in hopes for a shot at the NBA Finals.
Without Kawhi Leonard nor a healthy Kevin Durant standing in the Bucks’ way, many would argue that this is the year for the Bucks to assert their dominance in the East. Their core remains mostly the same, aside from the loss of a promising young talent in Malcom Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers. That being said, the same chemistry and unity from last season will serve the Bucks well considering how much movement there was this past offseason as a plethora of superstars packed up their bags and left to join a different team. The Bucks did make some notable pickups in signing Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver, and Robin Lopez (yes, we have both Brook and Robin Lopez now). Adding this veteran presence will serve the Bucks well in maintaining focus and keeping their sights on a championship.
The Bucks opened the 2019-2020 NBA season in Houston this past Thursday night against the Rockets, who are regarded as one of the most dangerous teams in the West. With a late trade acquiring Russel Westbrook for Chris Paul, the Bucks knew it’d be overwhelming to defend two potential MVP candidates in the same game.
After a shaky start, the Bucks managed to fight back from being down by 16 in the second half and secure their first victory. It was a telling win of what the Bucks stand for and seemingly showcased they were going to pick up where they left off last season. The team shot 46.5% from the field, with strong performances from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who recorded a triple double, as well as Ersan Ilyasova, who made some crucial plays down the stretch. Although Giannis fouled out with around 5 minutes remaining, the team managed to hold onto their lead. It was all in all a team effort with seven players scoring double digits.
Yesterday, October 26, the Bucks flew back to Milwaukee for the home opener against the depleted Miami Heat side. Given the Heat’s new superstar Jimmy Butler was sitting out, the Bucks were heavily favored in this one.
Throughout the majority of the first half and the beginning of the second half, it seemed as if the Bucks were going to cruise their way to another victory. However, a few quality possessions by the Heat and careless mistakes from the Bucks allowed Miami to bring themselves right back into the game. After being down by 21 points with 10:58 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Heat tied the game midway through the 4th quarter. With all the momentum, a couple of big shots by Miami’s Kelly Olynyk helped the Heat obtain a 9-point lead with just over three and a half minutes remaining. Nevertheless, the Bucks showed their fighting spirit and pulled their way back into the game with a game-tying buzzer beater by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Even though the Bucks sent the game to overtime, a few questionable calls yet again disadvantaged Milwaukee without their superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, as he fouled out for the second straight game. The Giannis-less Bucks were unable to hit their shots in overtime, as Miami’s Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo propelled the Heat to their second victory.
While some of the lack of success could be attributed to poor calls by the referees, the Bucks really need to stay focused the full 48 minutes and play their game. Furthermore, the Bucks have to be better at the free-throw line. Through the first two games, the Bucks have shot 32 for 54 (59%), missing 22 free-throws. There is no excuse for that. Hopefully, they will work on that in practice and improve.
Even though it was a disappointing loss against Miami, there are some positives to draw from their performance. New signings such as Kyle Korver, who combined for 28 points and 8 three-pointers, clearly add a lot to this Bucks team. Moreover, just like in Houston, the Bucks showed they will fight and never give up. In both situations, if they had been focused from start to finish, there would have been no need to work strenuously towards the end of the game.
The Bucks start Week 2 at home against Cleveland on Monday night as they hope to bounce back from their disappointing loss against Miami.
David’s Milwaukee Bucks Week 1 Grade: C+
Week 2 Schedule (October 27 – November 2)
- Monday, October 28 at 7:00pm CT: vs Cleveland Cavaliers
- Wednesday, October 30 at 6:30pm CT: @ Boston Celtics
- Friday, November 1 at 6:00pm CT: @ Orlando Magic
- Saturday, November 2 at 7:00pm CT: vs Toronto Raptors