The Milwaukee Bucks have separated themselves from a pack of contenders in recent weeks and cemented their status as clear favorites to win the 2023 NBA championship, even in an era of parity.
They have lost twice since Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from resting his sore left knee in January — by 3 points to the Philadelphia 76ers and in overtime to the Golden State Warriors. Their NBA-best defense and seventh-rated offense in that span has left opponents losing by double digits per 100 possessions.
Antetokounmpo is the best player alive, and he is making a case for a third MVP award in five years. Over the course of Milwaukee’s recent run, he is averaging 32.5 points (on 57.4% shooting), 11.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 30.4 minutes per game. The Bucks are +206 in Antetokounmpo’s 618 minutes since Jan. 23.
Milwaukee is hitting every benchmark necessary for a title team and doing it at the right time. The Bucks are two years removed from putting it all together in the playoffs and delivering the franchise’s first title in 50 years. They might have repeated last season were it not for Khris Middleton’s absence against the Boston Celtics.
Since rejoining the starting lineup last week for the first time since mid-December, Middleton is beginning to look like the wing who elevates Milwaukee from formidable to borderline unstoppable. Jrue Holiday might make an All-NBA team this season. Brook Lopez is an All-Defensive center who can score inside and out. The addition of Jae Crowder rounds out a rotation that is as massive as it is skilled. They are frightening.
The Bucks are now tied with the Celtics for the best odds to win the championship, according to BetMGM, but even Boston has question marks. In fact, there are reasons to doubt every other contender entering the final few weeks of the season. Let us break down those issues and our confidence level in each of them.
Boston Celtics wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have not been the mark of consistency since they dominated the NBA’s All-Star Game. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)
Record: 48-22 (second in the East)
Net rating: 5.5 (tied for first in…
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Publish date : 2023-03-16 20:44:18
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