Into the Hundreds
1991 Until Infinity
The last time the Bucks were scoring like this, it was Fred Roberts, Alvin Robertson, Dale Ellis, Jay Humphries, Frank Brickowski and people like that who were scoring like this.
After reaching 100 points in eight straight games, it looked like the streak would not go on. What was mostly going on was a defensive festival of salty sweat and salty fouls and salty non-fouls that could have been fouls. Entering the fourth quarter against the Clippers, the Bucks led 72-71, and the points were arriving less and less often throughout the first three quarters: 26 to 25 to 21.
Then the Bucks exploded for 39 points in the final 10:34 of the fourth quarter. And like that… the number 111 was on the scoreboard, the home team had won a shootout against the third-best offensive team in the NBA, and the Bucks had scored 100+ points for the ninth straight game, the first time they have accomplished that since 1991.
Ten games into the season, the Bucks ranked exactly 28th in the league in terms of offensive efficiency. They were barely better than the Thunder and 76ers, back when the Thunder didn’t have Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, and when the 76ers were the 76ers.
In those first 10 games, the Bucks had hit 100+ points just once, and that was the season opener, in overtime, in a loss. The team was off to a surprising and pleasant 5-5 start, but it was all about the defense in those days.
And that is what makes this run of offense so surprising. After a few weeks, the Bucks looked like a very good defensive team and a very not good offensive team. Then on Nov. 18 in Milwaukee, the Bucks poured in 118 points on the Knicks, and they haven’t really stopped since.
So, where are all the points coming from? What has changed? Here are five reasons (among many others) to help explain how the Bucks have transformed from a bottom-five offense before Nov. 18 to a top-ten offense since that day.
The Bucks are playing their bench more than any other team in the NBA. More than any team in the last 17 years. And they are playing, well, very well. Just the other night, the bench was fantastic against the Clippers, scoring the majority (21) of the team’s 39 fourth quarter points.
Not even a surprise at this point. Jason Kidd routinely goes to his bench to start (and sometimes close) fourth quarters, sometimes a full five from the bench at a time. The victory over the Clippers marked a third straight win that featured massive contributions from the bench, particularly in the fourth quarter. All this, and keep in mind that Ersan Ilyasova really heated up before suffering a fractured nose, which is a phrase that hurts to type, and John Henson has been out since Nov. 25 with a sprained ankle.
Before Nov. 18, the Bucks were shooting 29.6 percent on threes. That was the worst mark of any team in the NBA. Since then, they have shot 37.9 percent from long range, good for seventh-best in the league during that time. That is a massive improvement. In December, Khris Middleton is shooting 46.2 percent on threes, Kendall Marshall is at 66.7 percent, and Brandon Knight is hitting 43.8 percent.
And almost all of their wins since Nov. 18 can be traced to ace 3-point shooting. Look here: 9-17 against the Knicks, 10-22 against the Pistons, 13-29 against the Pistons (again), 9-16 against the Heat, 7-11 against the Clippers.
Well, the Bucks are just making a lot of their shots now. Since Nov. 18, they rank fourth in the NBA in field goal accuracy, at 47.6 percent, behind only the Clippers, Grizzlies, and Spurs.
Another way to look at it: The Bucks are making a better percentage of their threes and field goals than the Warriors since Nov. 18. The Warriors haven’t lost since Nov. 18. The Bucks are still getting tons of good looks at the rim (they rank second in the NBA shots made in the restricted area), and now they are making threes (noted above) and even hitting from the mid-range (seventh best mid-range shooting percentage in league since Nov. 18, after ranking 26th prior to Nov. 18).
More exceedingly simple stuff here. Before Nov. 18, the Bucks ranked 27th in the league, making just 14.5 free throws per game, on 74.7 percent shooting. Since then, they rank fifth in the league, making 19.7 free throws per game, on 80.5 percent shooting.
Jerryd Bayless leads the NBA with an absurd 97.9 free throw percentage, Giannis Antetokounmpo already has two games of 8-for-11 shooting at the stripe this month, and Brandon Knight is getting to the line and making a better percentage at the line than ever before in his career.
Even though there aren’t as many missed shots to reel in anymore (good thing), the Bucks are managing to make the most of the misses by grabbing more offensive rebounds and converting more second chance points (good thing). Before Nov. 18, they ranked 26th in the league with 11.0 second chance points per game. Since then, they rank eighth in the league with 14.8 per game.