Undefeated, and it feels so good.
The Mike Budenholzer era is off to a grand start, a couple of wins in our pocket in as many games, and while there’s much room for growth the trends are goooooooood.
Everybody but zombie Tony Snell seems more alive in this system. The plan is simple but effective: shoot high efficiency shots and only high efficiency shots, while forcing the opponent to do the opposite. Surround Giannis with shooters, give everybody the green light, and devour team records.
The Bucks are finally, finally, putting their own spin on the modern game. The results appear to a stats junkie as the holy grail.
The long two. Bane of the stats junkie. Inefficient. Ugly. Laden with 90s machismo. Banished from the state of Wisconsin.
Even more impressive than Milwaukee’s own shot selection is that of their opponents. I’m not sure how exactly, but through a combination of basketball IQ and raw psychology, the Bucks appear to be controlling the shot selection of their opponents. This is some voodoo nonsense, but considering our length it actually makes sense.
Scenario: You’re a star guard in the NBA. A hotshot. A scorer with the scorer’s mentality. Between you and the basket is a veritable forest of length, daring you to charge so that you can be stripped, stuffed, sent home to mama. You’re smarter than that. You sense an opening, a clearing in the trees just for you. You go up, deftly launch a shot as the limbs close in and …
Clank The shot bounces harmlessly off the rim into the ready arms of a defender. The Bucks got you. Coach Bud wants you taking those shots, falling into swagger traps strewn about the court. It’s all going according to plan.
In this NBA, there are absolutely scorers that can kill you from the Kingdom of Jabari. Superstars hit tough, unholy, does he know this isn’t 2K?! shots that make the blood run cold. It is part of the thrill of watching masters at work. A team may win against the odds in a thrilling moment, yet over a series of plays those dream big shots bury even the chosen in a mountain of mean reversion.
No coach alive wants the game to revert to a playground battle when their team is on the back foot, but that is just what Buddy Ball demands of its opponent through a complex network of prods and tweaks.
That means performances like Kemba Walker’s 41 points won’t be an anomaly, won’t be an aberration, an error to be corrected. Oladipo’s 25 points on 23 shots might well indicate a refinement of strategy.
The Buck’s opponents might choose a champion to match Giannis Antetokounmpo each night, and while they might fail it will be spectacular basketball. Teams might adapt to our game, but we have the talent to outduel them, the energy to outlast the very best, and time will grant us the benefit of experience.
Fans will go home thinking they got their money’s worth, even on nights their team never had a chance.
The point of Milwaukee’s system is to create beautiful basketball while maintaining control of the game. Success is almost a side effect, part of a greater harmony at work. Games are going to be fun. We are growing into contention, learning to dominate while dominating. These Bucks are chasing total mastery.