The Milwaukee Bucks have caught fire from three, and it’s paying off

Jan 9, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

It was a struggle shooting the ball for the Milwaukee Bucks prior to the month of January, as they were extremely inconsistent from three for the first two and a half months of the season. After 38 games, they sat 23rd in the NBA in 3-point percentage at just 34 percent. For a team that relies so heavily on the outside shooting that surrounds Giannis Antetokounmpo, this was not going to cut it.

These struggles seemed rather surprising, given that the Bucks had finished top five in the league in 3-point shooting each of the last two seasons while being comprised of mostly the same players. And it seemed as though they were still getting plenty of good looks from the attention Giannis draws down low. Had they lost their touch? Was it just a bad stretch? Were they going to return to form? Nobody really knew for sure. Shooting can be an unpredictable thing sometimes in the NBA, and it wasn’t clear if or when this slump might end.

Well, over the last month, it has.

The Milwaukee Bucks have caught fire from three, and it’s paying off

With Giannis missing some time in January, the Bucks have had to rely even more on 3-point shooting than usual, and they have been incredibly good and consistent from outside over the last 12 games. During that stretch, Milwaukee is shooting 41.5 percent from three (Third highest in the NBA during that span) on 45.2 attempts per game (Second most in the NBA during that span). For 12 straight games, the Bucks have made at least 13 threes and shot at least 35 percent from downtown. Their 225 made threes in the last 12 games is the fourth-most by any team over a 12-game span in NBA history, per Stathead (Subscription required) The efficiency combined with the volume is remarkable.

Milwaukee shot over 38 percent from three in just 12 of their first 38 games, but since then have done so in 10 of their last 12 games. This consistency is a fantastic thing to see, as in the past few years they have been known to be more streaky from game to game and rarely had any long stretches like this without a single poor shooting night. After all, it is usually better to shoot basically 40 percent every night rather than 55 percent some nights and 25 percent others.

The shooting has been contagious throughout the team and pretty much everyone is finding their rhythm. Here are some player’s 3-point percentages lately:

Bobby Portis: 43 percent in his last 14 games (30 percent previously)

Pat Connaughton: 41 percent in his last 22 games (26 percent previously)

Joe Ingles: 45 percent in his last 13 games (19 percent previously)

Jrue Holiday: 39 percent in his last 14 games

Grayson Allen: 48 percent in his last 12 games

Brook Lopez: 38 percent in his last 10 games

Jevon Carter: 51 percent in his last 10 games

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 44 percent in his last 6 games

Basically, the whole Bucks roster is hot at the same time right now, and it has been awesome to watch. Now the question is, what type of shooting should we expect going forward? Will the hot shooting continue, or will they fall back into their earlier struggles?

The answer is most likely somewhere in-between, as they likely won’t be as bad as they were in the first 38 games of the season, but they also won’t continue to shoot over 40 percent from three. But the shooting most likely will be closer to elite level than bad, considering the level of shooters these players have proven to be throughout their careers along with the fact that they have consistently generated good looks all year, even when they weren’t making them.

According to ShotQuality, the Bucks are a solid 12th overall in their 3-point shot quality this season (ShotQuality analyzes the quality of the look based on a bunch of factors). They were 12th before this hot stretch started and have been ninth since, so nothing drastic seems to have changed other than the fact that they are simply knocking down shots at a much higher rate now. And that’s sometimes just how the game goes.

The reality is that it’s a make-or-miss league and every team and player will have great shooting stretches along with bad shooting stretches. Bucks fans just have to hope that the team can keep up some level of consistency and limit the number of games where they go ice-cold. Khris Middleton working his way back into the rotation should only make things easier, as he not only is arguably the best shooter on the team, but his offensive presence opens things up for everyone else as well.

The bottom line is that it’s good to know that the Bucks still are who we thought they were. These players are good shooters, and they are still plenty capable of being among the best 3-point shooting teams in the league despite the poor start to the season. If they can get this type of consistent shooting from role players to go around what the big three already provides, the offense will come around and it will be a major difference-maker in the playoffs.

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The hot shooting has helped the Bucks surge back to second place in the Eastern Conference, and we’ll see if they can make a push for the top spot in the month of February.