Bucks Can Still Win East Despite Inconsistent Habits


Things haven’t gone according to plan for the Milwaukee Bucks this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo loves to say the Bucks just have to build good habits. Well, they need to build consistent habits, too.

No doubt after winning a title there is a hangover or grace period. It’s time for the Bucks to put last year in the rearview mirror and start building toward a potential return trip to the NBA Finals.

The Bucks might have started to hit the switch. The Deer are on a four-game winning streak. Three of those games needed fourth-quarter comebacks, including an improbable win over Miami, overcoming a 14-point deficit with six minutes left.

What have been the Bucks’ biggest issues this season? Let’s take a look.

Championship hangover

I think we all expected the malaise that comes with winning a title. It’s rare when a team wins it all to continue that kind of edge. But Giannis continually talks about “building good habits.”


This Bucks team, though, has continually wilted defensively, not executed down the stretch and taken poor shots in clutch situations. We saw last year the Bucks win it all as a No. 3 seed in the East.

Top-seed isn’t a must. Making your route increasingly difficult, however, isn’t ideal.

It’s time to shake the championship hangover. It’s a new year and the Bucks should turn their attention to repeating.

Injuries/COVID protocols

Injuries and COVID protocols are not confined to the Bucks with COVID-19 affecting many teams in 2021-’22. The Bucks’ opening night starting lineup: Jrue Holiday/Grayson Allen/Khris Middleton/Giannis/Brook Lopez. The Bucks have been without two or more starters for half of their games.

Middleton, Giannis and Holiday all missed time with COVID and Lopez has been out since playing in the opener due to back surgery. Which leads to the biggest issue this year.

Interior defense

The Bucks’ interior defense has been feeling the effects of Brook Lopez missing every game except the season opener. Giannis has been great defensively, but Lopez has left a big hole — pun intended — on that end of the court. The Bucks funneled drivers to Lopez and forced them to finish over a seven-footer. Without Lopez the numbers haven’t been kind for the Bucks, particularly over the past month.

In the NBA.com Power Rankings late last month: “With their loss to Brooklyn on Saturday the Bucks are in the midst of their worst stretch of defense this season (120.8 points allowed per 100 possessions). The Bucks rank 27th on that end of the floor (117.9 allowed per 100) since Jan. 22, and while they allow a high volume of three-point attempts, their issues go beyond their opponents’ shooting from the perimeter. Their opponents have shot 62.1% in the paint over those 13 games.”

The Bucks have allowed at least 60 points in the paint seven times this season. Through their first three seasons under Mike Budenholzer (including playoffs), they allowed their opponents to score 60 or more points in the paint just five times total. The Bucks attempted to shore that up with the trade deadline deal of Serge Ibaka. If Lopez can come back healthy with Ibaka and Giannis, the Bucks’ interior defense should return to past years’ form. Milwaukee did receive some good news on this front.

Despite issues, Bucks can win it all

Among the issues have been interior defense, injuries, COVID-19, resting on a title and more.

The East, though, is wide open and the Bucks still have a great shot to come out of the East. It would be ideal to get into the top three in the East, but the Bucks can go on the road and beat anyone. They proved that in the postseason a year ago. While the inconsistencies have caused the fans some headaches, the Bucks are no doubt a top contender to come out of the Eastern Conference and win another NBA Championship.

About Mitchell Skurzewski

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