Milwaukee set the standard for playing tough defense in recent seasons. Now, the Bucks are showing they can be just as difficult for teams to handle heading into Friday’s game with visiting Utah.
Potent offense took center stage in Milwaukee’s 130-115 victory over Detroit on Wednesday. The Bucks dropped 82 first-half points on the Pistons and finished with a season-high 35 assists. They shot 44 percent from the perimeter, tallying 19 made 3-pointers.
Milwaukee improved to 4-0 at home this season, even while playing in an empty arena because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Our day-to-day routine and rhythm, we’re trying to keep as much of that in place,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Hopefully, we can continue to make this a great place for us.”
The emphatic win over Detroit isn’t an outlier performance by any means. Milwaukee is averaging 125.3 points and 27.5 assists through eight games. The Bucks are shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from 3-point range. Both Giannis Antetokounmpo (26.1 ppg) and Khris Middleton (21.1 ppg) are averaging more than 20 points per game.
Offensive efficiency has added a dangerous component to a team that led the NBA in defensive efficiency in each of the previous two seasons. Milwaukee registered more regular-season victories than any other team in the league during that stretch and seems right on track to dominate in the Eastern Conference for a third straight season.
That’s bad news for a Jazz team that’s seen the wheels fall off defensively on its current road trip.
Utah blew an early, 18-point lead in the second half of a 112-100 loss to New York on Wednesday night. The Jazz sputtered on offense and defense in the third quarter and eventually the Knicks took control in the final minutes after scoring 68 points in the second half.
Lapses in perimeter defense came to a head late in the fourth quarter when Austin Rivers sank four 3-pointers as part of a personal run of 14 straight points for New York.
The second unit played well in giving the Jazz an 18-point second-quarter lead. Jordan Clarkson led the way with 19 points and Joe Ingles added 16. But when the starters returned to the floor, a lackadaisical attitude on both ends of the court bit Utah in the end.
“We missed some shots, but those are the times you need to defend,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We just made it too easy with some careless turnovers and some breakdowns defensively.”
Defensive lapses and strings of careless turnovers are becoming a recurring problem for Utah. The Jazz have been roasted on a regular basis by hot-shooting guards this season and teams are no longer fearing Rudy Gobert around the basket as they have in past seasons.
It has added up to a Utah team that has not held an opponent under 100 points so far this season and is allowing 116 points per game in four losses.
–Field Level Media