The Milwaukee Bucks have roared to a 35-6 record as we enter the halfway point of the season. During that stretch, they lead the league in points per game (119.2) and point differential (+12.3). They are 6.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics who sit in second place in the Eastern Conference at the time of this writing, and are early favorites to make the NBA Finals.
Of course most expected this sort of dominance with the impact that last season’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has on the court night after night. His Player Efficiency Rating of 32.8 is on pace to be the highest in NBA history, topping Wilt Chamberlain’s record that has stood since 1963. He leads his team in points, rebounds, and assists and is making a campaign to repeat as Most Valuable Player. Any team he is on will be good, especially in the weaker Eastern Conference.
However, the Bucks are a team that know how to win regardless of who is on the floor, and that includes the Greek Freak. In a game on January 11th where Giannis recorded only 13 points, the Bucks still beat the lowly Kings by 21. Giannis plays just under 31 minutes per game as well, meaning that the reserves get plenty of time to shine in 18 non-Giannis minutes. George Hill is leading the league in 3-point shooting percentage and the Lopez twins are the best interior defenders in the NBA behind only Giannis. This team has it all as they still post a positive net rating when Giannis sits by a considerable margin, something that can’t be said by other star-supported teams.
The true secret to the Buck’s success, however, lies beyond the court. This team likes each other. They have strong chemistry, and the fun that they have outside of games translates to the 48 minute performances they put on come game-time. The same can be said for the Los Angeles Lakers, with their sincere and highlight worthy bench reactions, and the Oklahoma City Thunder who have shattered many expectations of them for this season by embracing their status as underdogs. The Bucks have taken this formula for success to a new level.
Some players are slaves to tradition, Russell Westbrook being one of the prime examples. The Bucks as a team have created a viral tradition that precedes most if not all of their games. In their case, however, it is more about having fun than perfecting a routine.
The Buck’s social media is full of these fights where usually Robin Lopez is the one getting thrashed by his teammates. There’s even an instance of the team ganging up on the Sacramento Kings mascot. They are having a blast together and that camaraderie translates to trust and teamwork on the basketball court.
No one seems to enjoy this more than Giannis, and if your MVP is happy, then things will go well for you. Especially when the media likes to tease his departure to other teams in the off-season, keeping him happy in Milwaukee is the best way to convince one of the league’s best players to stay put. That plus all the wins they are racking up night after night.
There’s also… Whatever this is.
As fans we typically don’t get to see behind the scenes of player’s lives all that often, but moments like these let us know that this squad has a tight bond and they will fight for all 48 minutes together win or lose. And they don’t lose very often.
Photo Credit: USA Today
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