How the Milwaukee Bucks are rolling offensively but struggling defensively

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 12 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 12 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Since returning from the All-Star break, the Milwaukee Bucks have put together a 6-2 record over their first eight games. By all accounts, that is certainly a strong start for the defending champions thus far, given how difficult their schedule has been. As expected, there have been some positives in this stretch, but also some glaring negatives. Truly, it can be summed up by looking at the Bucks’ production on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, as the two have been night and day.

Looking at the Milwaukee Bucks play on offense and defense throughout their first eight games following the All-Star break

Offensively, the Bucks have been working like a well-oiled machine in this stretch, putting up an impressive 124.8 points per game, according to Their offensive rating has been up to par as well at 122.8 in these eight games. Unsurprisingly, both of these currently rank first in the league following the All-Star break, and the next team on the list is not particularly close in either category. Milwaukee’s offense has dominated opposing teams in this stretch, and it is easy to see why.

The Bucks have gotten significant contributions from their “Big 4” over these past eight games, with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way. The Greek Freak has been on a tear lately as he is averaging 31.1 points per game following the All-Star break, continuing to make a late push for a chance at the NBA scoring title this season. Khris Middleton (25.5 points), Jrue Holiday (19 points), and Bobby Portis (16.4 points) have also chipped in lately, as this unit has been clicking like never before. When the Bucks are getting contributions like this from their top four available players, their offensive attack is outright dominant.

In addition to the help from Milwaukee’s four leading scorers, the team’s overall 3-point shooting has been a tremendous boost. The Bucks are shooting 40.5 percent on 37.6 attempts per game on 3-pointers in this stretch, which is undoubtedly a welcoming sign. Seven Bucks are shooting north of 42 percent on their 3-point attempts, headlined by Jevon Carter (56.5 percent), Jrue Holiday (46.5 percent), Bobby Portis (45.3 percent), and Khris Middleton (44.8 percent), who have all been letting it fly as of late. Perimeter shooting is one of the most important factors for this Milwaukee team, and this recent hot streak has helped propel their offensive eruption lately.

Given how well the Bucks have played on the offensive end, their subpar play on defense has been overlooked to some degree. The Bucks have the 22nd ranked defensive rating in the league since returning from the All-Star break, which has proven troublesome. All of Milwaukee’s opponents to this point have scored more than 110 points, but it has been masked by their outstanding offense to combat it. Yet, the champs have done some things well, ranking second in paint points allowed with just 42.8, third in opponent second-chance points at 11.3, and fourth in opponent fast-break points with 9.9 on average.

Among the biggest reasons for the defensive slide by Milwaukee is the 3-point shooting by their opponents. Prior to the break, the Bucks held their opponents to 34.4 percent from distance, the 13th best mark in the league. In the eight games since, Milwaukee’s opponents are now shooting 39.5 percent on 3-pointers, the fourth-highest mark in the NBA. The Bucks have always had an issue defending the perimeter throughout the Mike Budenholzer era, and it has been amplified in these past few games.

While the Bucks were tied for the most “wide-open” 3-point attempts allowed by their opponents before the All-Star break (20.4 per game), they got away with it as those teams connected on just 34.7 percent of those looks, the worst mark in the league. It is now coming back to bite the Bucks as they are giving up the seven most wide-open 3-point looks (18.1 per game) and opponents are hitting a much-improved 41.7 percent of them. The Bucks need to do a better job of closing out on the perimeter to prevent their opponents from feasting on these open looks nightly.

It has undoubtedly been a turbulent ride for the Milwaukee Bucks in their first eight games since the break, and the team has plenty to work on over their final 14 games. While they need to keep the ball rolling offensively, the Bucks need to establish themselves defensively, and the first step to that is turning up the intensity on that side of the basketball.

Next. 5 noteworthy X-Factors for the Milwaukee Bucks down the stretch. dark

With players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and many others, the Milwaukee Bucks undoubtedly have the personnel in place to be formidable on both ends.