With the team in the midst of an easier stretch of games, the Milwaukee Bucks must take advantage of it with wins if they want to join the NBA’s elite.
Baby, it may be cold outside, but things are beginning to heat up for the Milwaukee Bucks.
After having one of the league’s toughest schedules to start the season, the Bucks have finally gotten some relief in recent games. Since their major 104-99 victory on the road against the Toronto Raptors on December 9, the Bucks have played just three teams that are either over .500 or in the playoffs in either conference.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that the Bucks have won six of their last seven games and sit just one-and-a-half back of Toronto for the Eastern Conference’s top spot.
But what makes this stretch of games stand out? Why are these games so pivotal?
In recent seasons, the Bucks have shown a tendency to play hard and compete against the league’s best. Many of their most impressive performances and victories have come in their most difficult games.
However, the team has frequently experienced let downs against the league’s bottom dwellers. Instead of them continuing to play at a higher level after a big win, the Bucks have often played down to their opponent’s level and lost to some very poor teams in the process.
Their failure to beat the teams they should led to the Bucks languishing in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings rather than emerging as one of the league’s best.
What differentiates a good team from the elite is consistency.
The league’s best teams, like the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, don’t just play incredible ball against the league’s best. They carry over their great performances on a night-to-night basis and win the vast majority of their games against inferior opposition.
Great teams flat track inferior ones which enables them to set the pace and create a cushion over their closest rivals.
After beating the Celtics for a fourth straight win, the Bucks’ lighter stretch continues with games against Miami, two consecutive games against the New York Knicks, Brooklyn, Detroit, and Atlanta coming up before a critical game against Toronto on January 6. These are all games where the Bucks will be heavily favored to win.
The reason this stretch of games is so important is that the Bucks finally seem to be taking that step into the upper echelon. They’re beginning to maintain their elite level on a game-to-game basis and beat the teams that they’re clearly better than.
In a tight Eastern Conference, one where they are tied with the projected top seed in the loss column and are two games ahead of both the three and four seeds, every win is crucial.
If the Bucks are going to finish as one of the Eastern Conference’s best, which they clearly possess the talent to be, they need to continue doing what they’ve began to during this easier stretch of games.
They need to steamroll inferior opposition. They need to be the pace setters rather than the chasers.
Let’s hope Milwaukee can seize the opportunity in front of them over the next two weeks or so, and beyond.