The Milwaukee Bucks had a tough task against the Los Angeles Lakers, Friday night. One they proved to be up for. The Bucks came away with that victory, but it was the first leg of a back-to-back weekend. Another test in the Utah Jazz awaited them on Saturday night.
This wasn’t going to be easy either. You knew the task would become a far more difficult one if the “load management” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has assessed as of late (especially with Giannis) continued to ring true. Giannis was available, but only out of necessity. Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, George Hill, Donte DiVincenzo, and Sterling Brown were all out. Yeah, that’s just about all of the guards.
Coach Bud made due with what he had. Employing a jumbo lineup with Giannis, Nikola Mirotic, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Ersan Ilyasova, the Bucks were able to jump out to a 20-6 lead. (That jumbo lineup may play a factor in the playoffs, which the Bucks clinched their spot after Friday’s victory.) Giannis and Middleton were the primary ball handlers all night and Bud had to give others significant time. (Christian Wood, DJ Wilson, Pat Connaughton being the beneficiaries.)
This was a game of runs. The Jazz were able to climb back and take a lead late in the game and would not relinquish it. Teams with at least a 17-point lead or more heading into the fourth quarter were 400-3 this season. Utah made it 400-4 as they were victorious over the Bucks, 115-111.
We could talk about the things that matter that resulted in this loss. The Jazz’s defense tightening up, making life tough for the Bucks. (Jazz held the Bucks to 38% shooting) Giannis going just 11-for-19 from the free throw line. (Including critical misses with seconds remaining in the fourth.) The lazy and careless passing from the Bucks didn’t help either. (15 turnovers in all) The thing is, folks focus on the wrong things.
Are y’all really going to go off on Middleton for going 8-for-24 from the field? Are y’all really going to equate his future salary off this game? Why are y’all talking about his salary anyway? Why are y’all acting as if he isn’t important to the Bucks and the success they are having as a team? If Middleton doesn’t play and put in 29 points, this is a far worse game, with far worse takes than what I have been seeing from those in the Bucks fanbase.
As if the Middleton bashing wasn’t enough, the fact people are furious about this loss is astounding. The way this squad played and y’all are acting as if this is the end of the season. Stop it. This is one of 82. The circumstances of this game had anyone with common damn sense, expecting a loss. (Not that I’m openly rooting for a loss or doubting this team. Just far too much evidence that proves the thought process correct.) The overreactions have to stop.
Bucks had their 10-game road winning streak snapped, their overall 7-game winning streak snapped, and suffered just their 15th loss of the season. If you listen to some out there, they’d have you believing they are just barely in the playoff race. Instead this team is STILL the one seed in the Eastern Conference, STILL holds the best record in the Association, and are the ONLY team to have clinched a playoff berth. They. Are. Fine.
The five-game road trip ends in Phoenix Monday night, with a very winnable game against the 13-51 Suns. (Suns beat the Bucks at Fierv Forum back in November and Milwaukee has yet to lose back-to-back games and two games to the same team. Trending well for the Bucks.) Bledsoe and Brogdon are expected to play. The effort shown on Saturday, with two impact players coming back to the roster? I like those odds. Even if “Dark Bucks Twitter” does not. Stop it.