If you haven’t checked the rankings in a while, you’ll soon notice something familiar about the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks climb to the top again.
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Winners in 10 of their last 11 games, the Bucks have found a way and the reasoning seems pretty clear.
With a 112-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Fiserv Forum on Monday night, the Bucks are now 11-0 when Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are in the lineup.
Middleton (eight games lost), Holiday (six games) and Antetokounmpo (three games) have been hampered by various ailments throughout the first quarter of the season, in addition to the starting center Brook Lopez who has only managed to appear in the festivities of the opening night. due to a back injury that has now forced him to operate.
27 pts | 12 REB | 2 AST | 3-3 3 pm pic.twitter.com/aU7ETzRUZb
– Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 7, 2023
As they did during the 2023 championship, the three stars of the Bucks take turns taking over the game. Against Cleveland, it was Antetokounmpo who exploded with 15 points in the fourth quarter on his 27th birthday. In total, the trio each topped 20 points in the victory, combining for 68 overall.
Entering the game against the Cavs, Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday’s unit ranked 14th among Milwaukee’s 3-man units per minutes played, highlighting how little they have had a chance to share the floor.
For comparison, last season the group ranked sixth in the same category.
The Bucks’ Big Three Do It (via NBA.com)
Without Lopez in the lineup, the Bucks have turned to Bobby Portis as the starting five, with DeMarcus Cousins a recent addition to the big-man rotation.
Despite the loss of their defensive anchor, the Bucks have begun to restore normalcy on both ends of the floor over the past ten games.
Sitting in the bottom third for offensive and defensive efficiency in the opening weeks of the season, the final 10 games see the Bucks in the top five on both ends of the floor.
It should come as no surprise that Antetokounmpo is the main driver of the Bucks’ dominance, with his on / off numbers just insane.
The MVP case for Antetokounmpo?
Of course, a contributing factor to those absurd forward numbers has been the absence of Middleton and Holiday which forced Mike Budenholzer to play a deep rotation and the two-way players extended the minutes to start the season, but it could be nonetheless. a solid argument for why Antetokounmpo is leading the pack of chase for MVP honors behind Stephen Curry.
As it currently stands, the Bucks are 1.0 game behind Kevin Durant and the Nets for the No. 1 seed in the East, with a December schedule that certainly looks favorable on paper.
Of the 12 games remaining in the calendar year, the Bucks will play an injury coup in Miami next, with other meetings against Houston twice, Orlando twice, Boston twice, New York, Indiana, New Orleans, Cleveland and Dallas. . Of that group, Miami is the only team with more than two games above .500.
In a season where injuries and health and safety protocols play a large role in regular season history, bench victories feel more important than ever.
For now, at least, the Bucks’ big three haven’t wasted a single opportunity.