Milwaukee Bucks: Trusting the pass as offense continues to surge

Jan 24, 2021; Milwaukee, WI, USA (Nick Monroe/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports)
Jan 24, 2021; Milwaukee, WI, USA (Nick Monroe/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports) /

Now that’s more like it for the Milwaukee Bucks after their 134-106 beatdown of the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night.

The Bucks had plenty of soul searching after a long flight returning back to Milwaukee after previously dropping the final two games of their three-game road trip down south. And with talk of it being a must-win game as some Bucks players discussed afterwards, the Bucks calmed down the nervous chatter in and outside the locker room for one night.

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As has been the case all season long, the Bucks’ rout of the Blazers saw their offense humming as they went on to hit 21 threes, the fourth game in which they’ve made 20 or more triples this season, and log their third-highest offensive rating in a single game, per

It also featured a season-high 38 assists on their 53 made field goals for the night. That’s the second-highest assist tally that the Bucks have posted in the Mike Budenholzer era.

Needless to say, Budenholzer was certainly pleased with his team posting a new watermark in this regard during their win over Portland as Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relayed:

"“The unselfishness was the key,” Budenholzer said of the third quarter. “I think we finished with 38 assists and the way the ball was moving for a lot of night but including that third quarter, a lot of open looks and guys stepping up and making them, mixing in driving and attacking at the same time. There’s a lot of good stuff. It’s important to have some games like that where you’re able to keep your foot on the pedal, to make a significant lead even more significant and get your guys a little bit of rest. We’ve got a big stretch coming up and it was good for us.”"

The Milwaukee Bucks are generating more assists than ever in the Mike Budenholzer era.

While this is an illustrious mark, it hasn’t been an isolated incident for this current iteration of the Bucks. Now averaging 27 assists per game, the Bucks have the fifth-highest mark of all teams, and 540 total assists on the year, which only trails the Denver Nuggets, Brooklyn Nets and the league-leading Charlotte Hornets.

It certainly helps to have the kind of improved shotmaking the Bucks have regularly sported in their 20 games this season and so does the multiple playmakers they roll out on the floor consistently.

Having a leading trio like Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday all average well over 5 assists per game is quite the luxury the Bucks haven’t had in some time. And that sharing of the ball from such cornerstone players have made it contagious throughout the whole Bucks’ roster, especially on hot shooting nights.

To that point, the Bucks have generated the sixth-highest amount of 3-point assists (243) of teams around the league so far this year, per And the fact that the Bucks have the eighth-highest assist-to-turnover ratio (1.88) points to the level-headed decision making the Bucks are generally making as a whole.

What can’t be lost in all of this is that with a new offensive system in place as well as significant roster turnover, the Bucks have quickly found success and chemistry by sharing the ball to the degree that they have. It’s in this manner where the Bucks are playing to true the unpredictable, read-and-react system that Budenholzer and his staff have put in place over their collective time in Milwaukee.

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Now whether this will hold up over time throughout the season and especially against tougher defensive units remains to be seen. But as long as the Bucks keep trusting the pass and obviously knocking down shots at a high level, their league-leading offense will hold moving forward.