The problem isn’t so much that the Milwaukee Bucks are 8-8 through 16 games. It’s that the Milwaukee Bucks really haven’t played all that well as a team this season, and that the Milwaukee Bucks have played genuinely terrible for significant stretches of four of the last five games. Let’s look back at Milwaukee’s eight wins.
99-88 over the Boston Celtics: This was an impressive season opener. Milwaukee looked crisp and dominated the entire game, with Boston only making it look like a reasonable margin of defeat with some garbage time points.
105-102 over the Cleveland Cavaliers: Every time Cleveland’s starting five was in the game, the Bucks were in trouble. Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving gave the Bucks headaches all night. But the Cavs bench is a woeful group. They proved incapable of hanging with Milwaukee’s reserves. Still, a Brandon Jennings buzzer beater three was required to beat a team that clearly isn’t headed to the playoffs this season.
101-91 over the Washington Wizards: Milwaukee started in a 12-0 hole and led by three after three quarters. The Bucks quickly built an arm’s length lead over Washington in the start of the fourth quarter and kept control for the rest of the game. The Wizards have won two games this season and are generally not very good. But they stuck with the Bucks and led by 12 at one point.
105-96 over the Philadelphia 76ers: One of the Bucks most impressive wins. On the road, Milwaukee held the lead for most of the first three quarters before a late third quarter run by the Sixers tied things up heading into the fourth. Milwaukee avoided a late offensive slump, as they forced enough turnovers and blocked enough shots to make the points they were scoring matter. A decisive win over a quality opponent.
99-85 over the Indiana Pacers: Coming off an impressive win over Philly, the Bucks looked even better against the Pacers. Milwaukee blew out the preseason Central Division favorite for 48 minutes.
117-113 over the New Orleans Hornets: Whatever it looked like the Bucks had found in their two outings prior to the Hornets game quickly vanished. New Orleans had open shots all night, really succeeded on the pick and roll and kept the Bucks on their toes all game. Milwaukee won, but in very poor fashion. Every win is important, but it’s more important to execute and play well, especially early in the season. The Bucks had done it for two games and suddenly were incapable of playing defense.
93-92 over the Chicago Bulls: Complete fools gold. A miracle fourth quarter comeback saw the Bucks sneak out of Chicago with a win forged on the back of reserves. Some would say the effort to come back from down 27 points was impressive. Others would say it’s a bad sign to have been down so much. Others would probably be more accurate.
91-88 over the Boston Celtics: Again, the Bucks went down big. A 17-0 deficit greeted Milwaukee’s first reserve to see the court. Again, the Bucks came back. Again, it is not a great sign to continually dig such big holes. After the first six or seven minutes, Milwaukee actually played significantly better. But how will the Bucks be able to be consistent game over game if they can’t be consistent quarter over quarter or minute over minute?
Eight wins, yes, but only three really impressive victories. I’ll give you four if you want to consider a 10-point win over the Wizards that included a 22-point swing impressive. Even so, the Bucks have been very fortunate in at least three of these wins. And in wins and losses, they’ve struggled mightily lately.
Milwaukee’s trailed by at least 17 points in four of their last five games and trotted out new combinations as often as a slot machine lately. This is a team searching for answers, for identity. They have a lot of time to find it and a schedule that’s got enough bad teams on it to keep them from long losing streaks.
But the Bucks look pretty far from a team that at one point had a 6-2 record.