Although it would certainly be difficult to top the success that the Milwaukee Bucks saw in 2021, the defending NBA champions hope to achieve big things once again in 2022. The Bucks have not exactly started the new year off with a bang as they have a measly 3-6 record over their first nine games this month. It has been a wildly turbulent stretch as these games have been either massive wins or devastating losses, with fans riding the roller coaster of emotions on a nightly basis.
Looking at the Milwaukee Bucks’ hectic nine-game run in January thus far
Starting with the positives, the Bucks kicked off 2022 with a commanding win against the pesky New Orleans Pelicans thanks to a dominant effort by Giannis Antetokounmpo. While New Orleans has had their share of struggles this year, Milwaukee’s other two wins this month certainly caught some attention. The first came against the Brooklyn Nets, arguably the Bucks’ biggest rival across the association, and they followed it up with a victory over one of the best teams in the league in the Golden State Warriors a few days later.
In their two wins over postseason contenders this month, the Bucks have looked outstanding in all aspects of the game. Not only did they beat both Brooklyn and Golden State, but they handled their business with authority. The Bucks built up a lead as big as 24 against the Nets, while they looked even more imposing as they were up 39 one point against the Warriors. These two games showed the Milwaukee Bucks at their best as they looked like the title favorites that many have pegged them to be.
While these two wins provided some optimism for the Bucks, their losses have seen them take a few steps back in that regard. The most significant gut-punch of them all was a crushing loss to the Detroit Pistons, who snapped Milwaukee’s six-game win streak at the time. Detroit has been one of the worst teams in the league this season, but they looked like world-beaters as they took down the champs in Fiserv Forum. Although the loss to Detroit arguably stung the most, they also suffered two grueling losses apiece to the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors. Charlotte just flat-out outworked Milwaukee in both matchups, while Toronto has had their number for quite some time as they have now won five straight against the champs.
Their most recent loss, Monday night’s blunder against the Atlanta Hawks, has caused quite a stir for the Bucks. They built up an early 14 point lead and looked to be in control throughout the game up until the fourth quarter, where the Hawks gained their first lead. Outscoring the Bucks 38-26 in the fourth quarter, the Hawks stormed back and snapped a 10-game home losing streak, sending the champs home with their heads hung low. These late-game collapses have become a trend all too familiar for Milwaukee in 2022, and this latest one might be the most disappointing.
A significant reason for Milwaukee’s struggles has been the absence of Jrue Holiday. The guard is dealing with ankle soreness that has forced him to miss the last six games. Obviously, the Bucks are a far different team without him in the lineup, and despite having the reigning Finals MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo and a two-time All-Star in Khris Middleton, they have not managed to put the pieces together unless they are playing formidable foes such as Brooklyn or Golden State. The guard’s presence has been missed dearly, and thankfully, there is a chance he returns to the fold in the Milwaukee Bucks’ next game on Wednesday.
The Bucks have played these nine games like they have a switch that can be flipped in an instant. They will coast against teams in the playoff picture or fighting to get there, but when it is time to take on the top-tier teams on the nationally-televised stage, they turn into a new squad entirely. Sure, that bodes well for their hopes in the bigger picture, but right now, they have some work to do as they are 27-19 on the season, good enough for just fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Hopefully the Bucks can turn things around starting tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.