3 burning questions for the Milwaukee Bucks down the stretch

CLEVELAND, OHIO - JANUARY 26: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JANUARY 26: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez, Wesley Matthews, Mike Budenholzer, Giannis Antetokounmpo
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – MARCH 29 (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Can the Milwaukee Bucks build good habits down the stretch?

Building good habits usually means picking away at the bad ones. And for a Milwaukee Bucks team that is only just now getting fully healthy, the bad habits are aplenty.

For instance, can they cast out their demons in the third quarter? The eye test alone should be proof enough: the Bucks have always been generous with blowing leads after halftime. According to NBA.com/stats, Milwaukee is dead last in the league in third-quarter defensive rating with a putrid 118.5 points given up per 100 possessions. They’re a net minus-6.3 in third quarters for the season thus far. It remains to be seen if this is a result of a lack of consistency and effort in those frames, or if it’s a coaching issue.

Speaking of consistency, it would also bode well for the Bucks to up their shooting percentages from distance. As it stands, only Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, Bobby Portis, and Pat Connaughton are shooting over 38 percent from deep. This means that opposing defenses won’t hesitate to leave starters like Brook Lopez (shooting 35.3 percent from behind the three-point line), George Hill (31.5 percent) and Wesley Matthews (33.3 percent) open to load up on the interior to stop Antetokounmpo’s drives. Kickouts to open shooters have always been a staple of the Bucks’ offense, but their open looks may begin to dwindle if they show they aren’t able to make defenses pay.

Next, can their bench production pick up to buoy them into the playoffs? Depth has always been a relatively overrated aspect of post-season basketball where the game slows down and the starters are expected to carry a heavier load. But the numbers haven’t been very good: the Bucks bench is only good for 27.3 points per game, making them the third-worst secondary unit when it comes to scoring the basketball.

These numbers mean that the team’s bench makes up less than a fourth of their total scoring output as a team. And though the team’s Giannis-and-shooters offensive identity has proven to be effective when shots are falling, it’s also evident that among the team’s worst habits is its tendency to over-rely on Antetokounmpo to make plays on offense.

Getting Lopez and Connaughton back should alleviate that somewhat; Lopez is a quality starter and defender who slots Bobby Portis back to his natural role as a bench scorer, while Connaughton at this point is an elite shooter who’s a positive for the Bucks on the offensive end with his rebounding and floor-spacing.

Next. The Milwaukee Bucks’ midseason additions are showing their importance. dark

Like most teams, the Bucks still have chinks in their armor and more than a few unanswered questions left to reckon with. But unlike most teams, the Bucks have been here before and have proven they have the championship DNA to turn things around when it matters most. Only time will tell if they’re able to right these wrongs, but given the character they’ve shown, it’s definitely a safe bet.