The Bucks are Young and Wildly Inconsistent

In the last week, the Bucks beat the best team in basketball and lost to one of the worst. But perhaps that’s just how it goes with a team defined by youth.

The Bucks handed the Warriors their first loss on Saturday night. It was one of the greatest regular season wins in franchise history and the Bucks’ best game of the season.

On Wednesday, the Bucks suffered their 16th loss of the season to the forlorn Los Angeles Lakers. It wasn’t among the worst losses in franchise history, but it was certainly among the Bucks’ worst losses of the season.

Two games played in a matter of four days. Two drastically different results.

How does the loss affect the victory? Does the victory mean less since the Bucks weren’t able to capitalize on the “momentum” they created?

No. It doesn’t. But surely there must be some sort of problem with the Bucks. The Bucks have an identity crisis, right?

Wrong. The Bucks have a firm identity. They are a young team and their youth currently defines them.  In the last month, Jason Kidd has said the following about his team in various situations:

This is a young team learning to be professional.”

That’s just being young, going through that and understanding the situation.”

Being young, sometimes we give in to the pressure or to a run instead of trying to answer.”

If you haven’t done it already, there will undoubtedly be a point during this season in which you will find yourself saying, “Enough with this excuse, Coach. They’re young, but they still should know how to play the game of basketball. They should stop making these silly mistakes. You should do a better job as a coach!

But the honest truth is that the core of this team will be young this entire season. And next season. And probably even part of the following season. So, what does that mean fans should expect?

  1. Wild fluctuations in performance. There will be nights where everything goes well and other nights where everything goes terribly. It might happen in back-to-back games like it did earlier this week or even within the same game from half-to-half.
  2. Poor performance on the road. Playing on the road is harder than playing at home. That is consistently accepted as true, but young players often struggle to bring the same energy to road games and it
  3. Playing to the level (and style) of opponents. The Bucks have beat both teams that played in last year’s Finals — the Cavaliers and Warriors. They’ve lost to the Lakers. They’ve been in close games with the Nets and Sixers. They played at warp speed against the Kings and walked it up the floor against the Spurs and Raptors.

Now, though this sounds like an easy justification for any struggles this season, it’s simply a reminder that the positive things the Bucks do should be celebrated and not immediately greeted with reminders of the struggles they’ve had this season or the struggles that might be coming in the future.

Remember: No matter how many points the Warriors put up on the Bucks, the Bucks still handed them their first loss of the season and it will always be a night no one should ever forget.

Clip of the Week

Limiting the clip of the week to just a single play from the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game feels wrong, but I did it anyways. The Bucks went to Monroe repeatedly in the fourth quarter and Draymond Green and the Warriors just didn’t have an answer. This dunk from Michael Carter-Williams actually made it feel like a Bucks’ victory was a reality.

What to Read

For Warriors, the surreal ends and the season begins – No one has covered the Warriors better in the last two years than Ethan Sherwood Strauss and that was again true on Saturday night. Strauss properly credited the Bucks, but more importantly showed just how unbelievable the Warriors have been to start this season.

Video of the Bucks Making It Rain: The Definition of Bad Optics – I didn’t really have much of a problem with Bucks players being at a strip club on Monday night before they played the Lakers the next day, but Gene Mueller of 620 WTMJ did a great job explaining why people might have been upset.

Steph Curry, Warriors: Revenge vs. Bucks a dish best served cold – Two Warriors games in one week means two Ethan Sherwood Strauss articles! Again, if the Bucks’ win over the Bucks didn’t mean much, the Warriors certainly have a weird way of showing because they’ve been cutting WWE-style promos all week long.

Week in Review

Friday – The Bucks traveled north of the border and scored just 31 points in the first half and gave themselves quite a hill to climb. They eventually cut the deficit all the way down to just four with five minutes left, but ultimately couldn’t catch the Raptors, losing 90-83.

Saturday – The Warriors entered the BMOH Bradley Center at 24-0 and left with their first loss. The Bucks leaned heavily on Greg Monroe (28 points) in the game’s final period, but players up and down the roster had great performances in the 108-95 victory.

Tuesday – After such a big win, the question was invariably, “Can the Bucks bring the same intense focus that they did against the Warriors?” The answer was no. They could not. Instead, they brought one of their most lackadaisical efforts of the season and lost 113-95 to the hapless Lakers.

Wednesday – Effort and focus improved slightly against the Clippers in the Bucks’ second straight game in the Staples Center, but it wasn’t enough as the Bucks lost 103-90. The Bucks had five players in double digits, but the Clippers’ stars were simply too much.

Next Week’s Preview

Friday – The Warriors will have a chance at redemption against the Bucks and they seem hell-bent on taking advantage of it. After their seven game road trip that ended in Milwaukee, the Warriors have played just one game, a win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

Sunday – There can only be one storyline as the Bucks prepare to take on the Suns: Brandon Knight vs. His former team. Knight has been fantastic for the Suns this season, tallying more than 20 points and 5 assists per game.

Wednesday – After their week long west coast road trip, the Bucks will return home and welcome the Philadelphia 76ers to the BMOH Bradley Center. The teams’ first meeting came in Jabari Parker’s first game of the season and turned into a 91-87 victory for the Bucks.

Stats of the Week

16Last week, I talked about Antetokounmpo’s lack of confidence in his jumper, but I could have also mentioned his shots at the rim. Before the start of the month, Antetokounmpo was shooting 65.1 percent on shots from less than five feet away. In December, his field goal percentage from that area is 16 percent lower at 49.1 percent.

3.93 – On average, Bucks players run at 3.93 miles per hour on defense, the league’s third highest speed. They run 8.08 miles per game on defense, also the league’s third highest number. In summation, the Bucks cover a lot of ground on defense and do so very quickly.

53.9 – defines a pull up as any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player took at least 1 dribble before shooting. Among players that have played in 10 or more games and take at least one pull up a game, O.J. Mayo is ninth in effective Field Goal percentage at 53.9 percent, which puts him just slightly below Kevin Durant.

Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine’s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can also find his work at SBNation’s Brew Hoop or you can find him on Twitter @eric_nehm, where he would love to hear about the coolest Bucks game you ever attended.