4 Reasons for optimism regarding the Milwaukee Bucks halfway through 2023-24 season

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks
Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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The Bucks in the clutch

One glaring problem with the Bucks last season, particularly in the playoffs, was their lack of offense in the clutch. With Mike Budenholzer and Jrue Holiday, they often sputtered offensively down the stretch of games and blew many leads as a result, with the most disastrous instances of this coming in the playoffs last season against the Heat. Down 2-1 in the series, they blew back-to-back double-digit fourth-quarter leads to end their season, getting outscored 73-41 in the fourth quarter of the final two games.

This season, after trading for Damian Lillard, the Bucks are one of the best clutch teams in the NBA. According to NBA.com, Milwaukee ranks seventh in offensive rating, third in defensive rating, and second in net rating in the clutch. Their 16 clutch wins are the most in the NBA, and this is a team that now comes through most of the time late in close games. We've already seen some late-game heroics from Damian Lillard, and the Bucks seem to lock in on defense when they need to late in games, which is a good sign when projecting for the playoffs.

The star duo of Giannis and Lillard also gets to the line and converts free throws at a very high rate in the clutch. According to inpredictable, Giannis has attempted the second most clutch free throws (36) among any player, and Damian Lillard has attempted the fourth most (33). Remarkably, Giannis is shooting 86 percent on those clutch free throws, and Damian Lillard is shooting 94 percent. Khris Middleton is also perfect on eight clutch free throw attempts this season, so in total, the big three is shooting 91 percent on clutch free throws.

The Bucks appear to be a trustworthy team late in close games, and that was not something that was able to be said about the team under Mike Budenholzer.