After some good vibes following the Milwaukee Bucks‘ big win over the Brooklyn Nets, they went 0-2 in their mini-series against the Charlotte Hornets and the vibes are no longer good.
Now, I try to be as level-headed and optimistic as possible (especially coming off of a championship), so those two games didn’t faze me too much. They had a couple of dreadful performances from their bench in both games and it was evident they were missing some of their best role players (and a member of the big three).
Luckily for the Bucks, they are going to get some of those key players back and it couldn’t come at a better time. The upcoming five-game stretch for the Bucks will see them face a variety of different play styles and it will come against some of the best or most intriguing teams in each conference.
How will the Milwaukee Bucks fare in their toughest five-game stretch this season?
Let’s start by laying out the next five games:
- vs. Golden State Warriors
- vs. Toronto Raptors
- @ Atlanta Hawks
- vs. Memphis Grizzlies
- vs. Chicago Bulls
The nice thing is that four of the five games are at home and that there will be no back-to-backs for the Bucks. As for their opponents, only one team (the Raptors) will face the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back so almost every team will be rested enough.
It’s a very diverse group of play styles that the Bucks will face and it will be a great test to see how they match up against those styles. It will be the first time this season that they’re playing the Warriors, Grizzlies, and Bulls while it’ll be the first time they play the Hawks with the big three all available (barring anything unforeseen by January 17th).
Starting with the Warriors, that will be one of the Bucks’ biggest tests of the season against arguably the favorites in the Western Conference. The Warriors just got Klay Thompson back and he should be playing against the Milwaukee Bucks on the 13th.
The Warriors play some of the most unique basketball in the NBA and I’m fascinated to see how the Bucks match up with them. They’ve shown the ability to go small and switch everything, but the amount of off-ball movement and action that the Warriors play with makes that difficult.
There are so many matchups of interest in that game, but watching how Khris Middleton will be forced to chase Thompson around is at the top for me. We’ve seen him hound guys like Duncan Robinson around screens, but Thompson is one of the three or five shooters all-time, even coming off of two serious injuries.
Then they’ll see the Raptors for the third time this season, still searching for their first win against them. Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t played in either matchup and that has to be factored in, but the Raptors are also a team that plays a very unique style and are finding their groove lately.
They’re built as a long and athletic team that can defend multiple positions. Their length has been a problem for the Bucks so far this season, but how will they hold up if Antetokounmpo plays? They’ve guarded him well in the past, but a lot of the key figures from that defense are gone.
The Hawks have the worst record of the bunch, but still have a ton of talent. They’re similar to the Hornets in that they have a pretty poor defense but can score a bunch of points. They beat the Bucks by 20 already this season and it’s also going to be in Atlanta, the only road game of the five-game stretch.
Milwaukee will return home to play, as of right now, one of the hottest teams in the league. The Grizzlies are right in the thick of it at the top of the Western Conference as former Bucks assistant Taylor Jenkins has them playing outstanding basketball.
Their defense is hellacious with players flying all over the court and Ja Morant has taken a big leap this season. I’m most interested to see a couple of things. The first is how Jrue Holiday defends Morant. The second is how Jaren Jackson Jr. holds up against Antetokounmpo.
Finally, they’ll cap things off with (somehow) their first meeting against the Chicago Bulls. The upstart Bulls have made their way to the top of the East and look pretty darn good. Even the biggest optimists for the Bulls couldn’t have seen this coming, but here they are. Although the rivalry hasn’t been there in recent years, these are two of the top teams in the East and could reignite the Bucks/Bulls rivalry.
They have a bunch of great offensive options, so I’ll be curious how the Bucks decide to match up against them. You’d have to assume Holiday would be the one to guard either Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan while Middleton guards the other. Nikola Vucevic has given the Bucks problems in the past as well by being a pick-and-pop big, but Milwaukee isn’t playing as much drop coverage with Brook Lopez.
This is certainly a team that the Bucks could face as early as the second round of the playoffs so it’ll be a good test, especially to end this five-game stretch.
The Milwaukee Bucks don’t need to prove themselves to anyone, especially in regular-season games. But this is a great test to see how the roster stacks up in different matchups as we approach the trade deadline.