What does the Milwaukee Bucks recent 4th quarter dominance tell us?

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 30: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 30: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

One of the prevailing notions around the Milwaukee Bucks this season is the idea that, once the “real games” start in the playoffs, they’re going to flip a proverbial switch and everything will be fixed. A lot of that has been focused on their seemingly lackadaisical effort on defense at times.

In their last 15 games, the Bucks have a defensive rating of 114.9 which ranks 19th in the league. Not ideal! That’s not what we’ve come to expect from the team that won a championship because of one of the best defensive units we’ve seen in recent playoff memory.

There’s always a bit of a worry with the whole “flip the switch” excuse that it, you know, won’t happen, but there’s a trend that’s been occurring since the All-Star break that gives some weight to those claims: their fourth-quarter dominance.

Just how good have the Milwaukee Bucks been in the 4th quarter recently?

In a word, the Bucks have been sensational in the fourth quarter since the All-Star break.

In 12 games, the Bucks have the league’s best offensive rating in the fourth quarter (128.4), the sixth-best defensive rating (107.4), and the best net rating (plus-21.1). Their net rating is three points better than the second-best team in the fourth quarter in that span.

Some other fun team-specific fourth-quarter stats: they have the seventh-lowest turnover rate (11 percent), the second-best defensive rebound rate (84 percent), and the third-worst assist rate (50.8 percent).

Although that last one doesn’t sound fun, it becomes more fun when looking at how the big three have performed in that span.

Of course, it’s no surprise that the Bucks’ fourth-quarter dominance is being spurred by their three best players, but they’ve been even better than you’d expect. Specifically the other two, not the big one.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 88 minutes, 77 points on 59.3 percent true shooting.
  • Khris Middleton: 73 minutes, 60 points on 70.2 percent true shooting.
  • Jrue Holiday: 98 minutes, 86 points on 79.9 percent true shooting.

Holiday specifically has the sixth-most total points in fourth quarters since the break and is the only one in the top 12 to have played fewer than 100 minutes. He’s been unbelievable, shooting nearly 69 percent from deep on 16 attempts and nearly 69 percent on 29 2-point attempts as well. He’s been very nice in the crunch time lately for the Bucks.

Even Antetokounmpo, who hasn’t been uber-efficient like Middleton or Holiday, still has a 35 percent assist rate in those situations and 19 assists. Additionally, he’s also grabbed 40 rebounds, which is tied for the second-most.

What can be taken away from the Milwaukee Bucks’ ridiculous fourth-quarter numbers?

Well, the first thing is that when things get serious and the stakes are raised, the Bucks are at their best. We all know about how much they’ve struggled in the third quarter this season (minus-13.3 net rating since the break in the third quarter), but even when they’ve dug themselves a hole and are behind or let a team back into a game, they know how to close.

A part of that comes back to their championship pedigree and that they know what it takes now to win close games because they’ve done it at the highest level and succeeded.

Another takeaway is that maybe the defensive issues they’ve had aren’t as troublesome as we’re making them out to be?

This goes back to the idea of flipping the switch, but the Bucks still have that defensive identity in them. That’s still who they are at their core. That 107.4 defensive rating would be the fourth-best in the NBA and I’m pretty sure no one would be hemming and hawing about how the Bucks’ defense might be falling off.

But why I found the stat that they have such a low assist rate so interesting is that their best players are just flat-out dominating in one-on-one or isolation situations, which is what playoff basketball grinds down to sometimes. Can your best player(s) go out there and simply get you a bucket in crunch time.

The big three have proven that they’re more than capable of doing that in recent games and if this is what the Bucks can look like when they decide to take things seriously, then opponents are going to have their work cut out for them trying to win four out of seven against them.

Next. Ranking 5 potential first round opponents for the Milwaukee Bucks. dark

Could you imagine what things would look like if the Bucks didn’t just take the third quarter off, though? Wouldn’t that be something!