Encouraging stat #2: Milwaukee Bucks are the top clutch team in the NBA
One of the biggest positives with this Bucks team so far has been their ability to close out games late. Milwaukee was not great down the stretch in close games under Mike Budenholzer, and that was never more apparent than in the 2023 playoffs when they blew back-to-back double digit fourth quarter leads in the final two games of the season.
So far this season, the Bucks rank fourth in offensive rating, second in defensive rating, and first in net rating in clutch situations (five-point differential or less in the final five minutes). Acquiring the best clutch player in the NBA definitely helped this, and Damian Lillard is shooting 53 percent from the field and 40 percent from three in the clutch. The offense has been almost entirely running through him late in close games with Giannis screening and rolling, and the late-game execution has been excellent. This combined with ramping up the defensive intensity when it matters has led to the Bucks being 7-1 in games decided by single digits.
The role players have stepped up as well to hit big shots late. MarJon Beauchamp, Malik Beasley, Cameron Payne, A.J. Green, and Pat Connaughton are all shooting 50 percent or better from three in the fourth quarter this season. Running action through Lillard and Antetokounmpo with shooters around them that are confident in clutch scenarios is a lethal combination to have, and the Bucks hopefully can remain one of the league's best clutch teams all season long. Being able to win close games will surely be important come playoff time, and right now the Bucks are giving fans a lot of confidence in their ability to do so.