MILWAUKEE - The NBA has made a concerted effort to reduce amount of back-to-backs in the schedule over the past few seasons, in a bid to reduce player fatigue. For that reason, the Milwaukee Bucks playing their fourth game in six nights come as an anomaly.
Fortunately for head coach Mike Budenholzer, his key players were afforded plenty of rest in yesterday’s mauling of Minnesota, giving his squad a little more juice than they might have had otherwise.
That extra juice was hardly required, as they coasted from start to finish, winning their sixth straight game on Sunday morning. The Bucks took a handy victory against the Orlando Magic, 113-91, their fifth straight win by double digits.
Budenholzer was able to give his entire 13-man active roster minutes last night, including Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova. Pregame, he shared his thoughts on spreading playing minutes, especially on the second night of a back-to-back.
“It’s early in the season, so back-to-back or not I think every coach, myself included, are trying to settle out our plan totally,” Budenholzer explained. “I feel like we’ve got a deep team and a lot of guys that can help, so we’ll see how the game goes. I have a couple of ideas in mind, and it could go a couple of different ways.”
The arduous week appeared to have little effect on the Bucks, who made a concerted effort to get into the paint and attack the Orlando front line. Milwaukee outscored the Magic 54-30 in the paint, and spent the majority of the night up by double digits.
The only potential concern from the night was a head knock to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak received an elbow to the head in the first quarter, leaving him lying on the floor for a moment, before he walked on his own back to the bench.
Antetokounmpo would be held out of the third quarter, undergoing concussion testing, before returning in the fourth quarter. Postgame, Giannis said he felt fine, and the testing was simply a precautionary measure.
The game was well beyond doubt throughout the last quarter, which allowed both Dellavedova and Maker to see the floor once again. Both Aussies featured in 6:03 of playing time, with Delly connecting on a long range bomb, while Maker delivered a trademark swat on the defensive end.
Speaking with The Pick and Roll post-game, Maker explained some of the difficulties in returning to the court after an extended period of inactivity.
“I’ve been a little bit rusty. [I’m] just trying to shake the rust off right now,” Maker said. “Game shape is different, you can do a lot of stuff to stay in shape, but there’s nothing like actually being in the game and going at that speed. That’s a speed that you can’t prepare for, you’ve got to chase defenders and be ready for this, ready for that. That [conditioning] comes with time on the floor.”
The fifth straight double-digit win for Milwaukee is significant, as it took the team until January 3rd to reach the same mark last season. After surrendering a big lead in the season opener at Charlotte, Khris Middleton spoke about how they’ve been able to keep the foot down after running up a big lead.
“We definitely learned our lesson in that season opener against Charlotte, we can’t relax [like that],” Middleton explained. “I think guys have done a better job of keeping that same focus that got us the lead [in the first place]. We’ve just got to keep trying to execute and not fall into those lapses where we relax.”
There will be zero opportunities to relax on Monday night, as the NBA’s final two undefeated teams go against each other in what is certain to be a raucous atmosphere at Fiserv Forum. Mike Budenholzer’s lethal offensive scheme is set to meet the rejuvenated Kawhi Leonard, who has miraculously returned to prime form in the season’s early weeks.
The Milwaukee Bucks have rolled to their best start to a season since the 1971-72 season while hardly breaking a sweat, but with Toronto and then Boston on tap, business is about to pick up.
The Milwaukee Bucks host the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday morning at 11:00 (AEST)