The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season will return on July 30 and NBA.com‘s writers are taking an updated look at each of the league’s 30 teams.
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Record: 53-12, No. 1 in Eastern Conference
Season summary: Facing one of the toughest tasks in sports — do everything right again all season, just to get to the playoffs for a shot to go one or two steps further — the Bucks were cruising when the ball stopped bouncing. Even after losing four of their last five games, they were on pace for a franchise-best 67 victories. They ranked first in points per game (118.6), net rating (10.7), defensive rating (101.6) and in opponents’ field-goal percentage (.413) and tied for fifth in offensive rating (112.3). Giannis Antetokounmpo has been better than he was in his Kia MVP season a year ago, and Khris Middleton again joined him as an All-Star. Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver and George Hill have eased the biggest offseason loss (Malcolm Brogdon).
Breakout player: Donte DiVincenzo played only 27 times as rookie, not at all in the 2019 postseason, and didn’t have a chance to prove or disprove his value as the No. 17 pick in 2018. But he has given Milwaukee a lively body, a pest on defense, a springy finisher of alley-oops and another 3-point threat.
Statement win: The Bucks had gotten spanked by Philadelphia before a global audience on Christmas Day. And when the Sixers came to Milwaukee for a Feb. 22 game, their big man Joel Embiid days before had labeled himself the “best player in the world.” Well, the home team won 119-98 and Antetokounmpo dominated with 31 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists, while Embiid was held to 17 points on 5-for-17 and 11 boards.
Most exciting game: Bucks 111, Lakers 104, Dec. 19. This was an early season heavyweight bout on TNT, pitting conference leaders and MVP rivals. It maintained equilibrium, too, for when the Lakers returned the favor on March 6 in L.A.
Memorable moments: A highlight from deep in the Bucks’ 18-game winning streak came on Dec. 13 when Antetokounmpo dunked ferociously on, and barked nasty at, Memphis’ Bruno Caboclo, cleaning up a grudge from FIBA World Cup summer play, Greece vs. Brazil. “On your [expletive] head!” the “Greek Freak” roared.
Team MVP: It would be enough if Antetokounmpo repeated his 2018-19 performance, or even dipped slightly. Instead, he has improved. Again. This is the sixth consecutive year he has boosted his scoring and rebounding averages, and his efficiency is off the charts. Antetokounmpo is getting his numbers and making his contributions while averaging just 30.9 minutes. Which means that, of every three games Milwaukee plays, the “Greek Freak” is sitting on the bench for the equivalent of one. That’s the kind of “load management” NBA commissioner Adam Silver could sign off on. Antetokounmpo’s splashiest upgrade has been his confidence from the arc, becoming not quite proficient (.306) but someone no longer dared to shoot them.
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