Bucks’ Offense Absolutely Sizzling With Lillard


Milwaukee Bucks general manager Jon Horst pulled off the blockbuster of the NBA offseason trading for Damian Lillard.

The deal has created a dynamic superstar combo in Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The top end of the roster is now among, if not the best in the NBA and teamed up the top-two scorers over the last five years in the NBA.

The Bucks’ offense is now starting to click on all cylinders. It was a pressing need in the offseason to upgrade the Bucks’ stagnant offense in the big moments. Acquiring Dame has fit that need perfectly and changed things in a major way.

Bucks bolster half-court offense with Lillard trade

While the Bucks did win a championship in 2021, the last couple of years have ended mainly because of stale offense, not enough shot making from the others and injuries tossed in.

Giannis is still dominant, but in the postseason, teams aren’t going to let him foray to the basket. They are going to pack the paint and make others beat them. Without their Big 3 on the court much, the offense just didn’t have enough punch.

Despite getting accustomed to a new head coach and a superstar getting acclimated, the Bucks are a top-five offense right now.

In fact, the Bucks’ offense is the second most improved offense in the NBA from last year. The acquisition of Lillard has opened up a plethora of possibilities for the Bucks in the half court. Dame-Giannis pick-and-roll alone created buzz. The Bucks’ difficulty to score at times appears solved pairing a perimeter talent like Lillard to go with an always-attacking Giannis.

Giannis is enjoying his most efficient season ever — that’s scary — with his new sharpshooting teammate. Giannis has taken over 75% of his shots in the paint, easily the highest mark of his career, and scoring 20.4 points in the paint per game.

According to NBA.com, entering last week Bucks have seen the league’s fourth-biggest jump in effective field-goal percentage (eFG%), its third-biggest jump in free-throw rate, and its fourth-biggest drop in turnover rate. Their success is largely about their half-court offense. They rank last in the percentage of their points (20.4%) that have come on fast breaks or second chances entering last week.

Lillard has Bucks’ offense scorching hot in winter

In December, Lillard and the Bucks offense is sizzling. The Bucks’ Big 3 are heating up in winter and have the best offense in December.

Lillard is averaging 27.6 points per game, shooting 47% from the field and a scorching 46.9% from deep this month good for a 58.8% eFG%.

Lillard is averaging 26.2 points, 7.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game on 43.6% shooting, including 37.9% from 3. His eFG% is 53.6%. While it took him some time to get accustomed to Milwaukee, Lillard is getting more comfortable.

Giannis and Khris Middleton are also enjoying strong December with Giannis’ eFG% over 60% and Middleton’s at 57.2, easily his highest of the season by month.

Role players helping offense with a bit of everything

What the Lillard move does isn’t just limited to Dame and Giannis.

Their star presence opens up things for Middleton, Brook Lopez and everyone else. We are seeing Lopez starting to directly benefit from Lillard’s presence with his monster 39-point night on Nov. 24. Four of Lillard’s 10 assists in the win over Washington were to Lopez.

The attention to Lillard and Giannis allows more open shots for others. With so much attention paid to Lillard and Giannis, guys like Malik Beasley, Lopez and Jae Crowder — when healthy — have gotten wide-open looks. Because of those open shots, those role players are enjoying standout seasons.

Beasley is shooting over 45% from three-point range. While everyone wants to talk about the potentially unstoppable Lillard-Giannis pick-and-roll, the role players benefit just as much. Crowder, in nine games, shot over 51% from 3. The Bucks are shooting 50% from the field as a team, second in the NBA and fifth in three-point percentage as a team.

Bucks clutch play getting boost by Dame

With Lillard in tow, the Bucks have one of the best clutch players in the NBA.

We have already seen Lillard’s impact, not only taking over games himself offensively, but the Bucks being incredibly efficient on both ends of the court in crunch time. While there was worry defensively with no more Holiday, when it matters the Bucks have the third-best defense. They have also been the sixth-best offense in the clutch.

Lillard has taken over down the stretch of a number of games already for the Bucks. In fact, Lillard has scored the second-most clutch points in the NBA this season with 78. Lillard is shooting 34-for-36 from the foul line in clutch time and has salted away numerous games already for the Bucks. He also has a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in clutch time, an NBA-best +56 with him on the floor and 12-3 in games decided in clutch time with Lillard playing.

The ability to get easy points at the foul line — while unexciting at times — has been a key aspect in the Bucks’ offensive efficiency. Lillard is one of only two players (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) who have shot 90% or better on at least eight free-throw attempts per game.

In the season opener, Dame wasted no time in his new digs, scoring 14 straight points down the stretch in the Bucks’ 118-117 win over Philadelphia. We saw him take over Nov. 3 vs. the Knicks to help the Bucks hold on 110-105 and was integral in a furious 26-point comeback against his old team, the Portland Trail Blazers, on Nov. 26.

Bottom line: Dame Time is alive and well in Milwaukee.

Despite working out kinks, Bucks finding ways to win

The Bucks’ lack of half-court offense in clutch moments in the playoffs has prevented them from being multiple-time champions. Despite Lillard still working through getting comfortable, the Bucks have been spectacular in crunch time and have seen a dramatic improvement offensively from last year.

Lillard answers many of the Bucks’ offensive questions down the stretch in the postseason. The Bucks look primed for another exciting playoff run.

About Mitchell Skurzewski

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