Bucks Lead

Central Division Roundup: Week of 10/23-10/29

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       –  CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – 3-4 (1-3 this week)
vs Chicago W 119-112, @ Brooklyn L 107-112,
@ New Orleans L 101-123, vs New York L 95-114

Cleveland started their week out with a win, even though they trailed for much of the first three quarters. LeBron posted a dominant 34 points and 13 assists to carry the Cavs past the hapless Bulls. Unfortunately for Cleveland, squeaking past one of the worst teams in the East would be the highlight of their week.

The next night, the Cavs traveled to Brooklyn to play the Nets. LeBron again displayed his individual abilities playing 41 minutes and finishing with a triple double. The problem for Cleveland isn’t LeBron, and it isn’t Kevin Love either; it’s everyone else, and it’s defense. The Cavs allowed over 115 points per game in their four games this week. It’s hard to win in the NBA that way.

LeBron has played well, and Kevin Love is averaging 20 and 11, but the Cavs are 3-4 and have really only looked good in one of those wins. Their defensive woes, which have been evident dating back to last season, have never looked more prominent. It’s early, but I think the rest of the East may already smell the blood in the water…

       –  MILWAUKEE BUCKS – 4-2 (2-1)
vs Charlotte W 103-94, vs Boston L 89-96, @ Atlanta W 117-106

The Bucks had an up and down week; earning a solid win against the Hornets, looking flawed and losing to the Celtics, and then bouncing back against the Hawks. Giannis, however, continues to assert himself as a leading candidate for MVP this season. Even in the Bucks lone loss this week, Antetokounmpo put up 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.

I wrote more about the “Return to the MECCA” game against Boston here: http://nbalead.com/bucks-vs-celtics-game-recap-102617/ Check it out!

During the disappointing loss, the Bucks offense looked anemic and stagnant. Coach Kidd received the brunt of this criticism, perhaps rightfully so. It is the coach’s job to make sure his team is prepared and understands what is expected of them. However, much of the offense’s struggles in this game appeared to be mental mistakes which led to empty possessions in key points of the game.

The offensive issues that worried many Bucks fans Thursday night looked like a thing of the past Sunday in Atlanta. The team had better spacing and ball movement throughout, and carried a big lead all game. Khris Middleton also bounced back, posting a season-high 27 points and 9 assist. Milwaukee needs Middleton to have more performances similar to this, where he effectively acts as the team’s secondary playmaker and makes life easier on Giannis.

       –  DETROIT PISTONS – 5-2 (3-1)
vs Philadelphia L 86-97, vs Minnesota W 122-101,
@ LA Clippers W 95-87, @ Golden State W 115-107

Nobody saw this coming from Detroit. Even after a 2-1 opening week, the home loss against Philly looked more like the Pistons we’ve come to know than the three straight wins against West playoff contenders. One of Detroit’s biggest question marks coming into this season was if their defense could return to its 2015-16 form. After this impressive week, I’d say it’s safe to say – yes!

The addition of Avery Bradley is obviously huge for their defense, and this was on display against the Warriors. Bradley started on Steph, and made life difficult for both him and Klay all night. As a team, the Pistons forced Golden State into a season-high 25 turnovers. Despite shooting 57% from the field, the Warriors trailed much of the game and were unable to overcome Detroit’s pressure.

Andre Drummond scored only 8 points Sunday against Golden State, but added 5 assists, 5 steals and 18 rebounds. For the week, he averaged 13 points and 16 rebounds. On the season so far, he is averaging career highs in offensive rebounds (5.6), assists (2.6), steals (2.3), and free throw percentage (70%). This is indicative of the type of progression critics have been calling for the past few years. If these numbers continue, and aren’t just due to small sample size, Drummond may finally be taking the step from simply being a great athlete to being a great player in this league.

       –  INDIANA PACERS – 3-3 (2-1)
@ Minnesota W 130-107, @ Oklahoma City L 96-114, vs San Antonio W 97-94

Indiana played a tough schedule this week, but come out of it with a ton of optimism about their team. This without their star big man Myles Turner, who is still out recovering from a neck injury and concussion-like symptoms. Domantas Sabonis has filled in nicely as a starter, and is averaging a double-double so far this season.

The Pacers currently rank 4th in the league in points per game (114) and offensive rating (107.8). The fast-paced approach that Head Coach Nate McMillan was hired to implement a year ago seems to have finally taken hold. What is even more impressive about this is how the Pacers are scoring. They rank 28th in the league in percentage of points scored off of 3-pointers, and tied for 1st in percentage of points scored off of mid-range jumpers. This is opposite of everything we have come to know about the modern NBA, and I’m really curious to see if this trend can continue for them.

Sabonis put up 22 and 12 against the Spurs, after something of a flop in his return to OKC. Victor Oladipo did not disappoint in his first game against the Thunder, pouring in 35 points on 11-18 shooting, including 5-8 from 3pt. Though the season is young, Oladipo is averaging 25 points per game while shooting 50% from the field and 47% from three. It’s early, but it is definitely looking like the Pacers faired pretty well in the Paul George trade.

       –  CHICAGO BULLS – 1-4 (1-2)
@ Cleveland L 112-119, vs Atlanta W 91-86, vs Oklahoma City L 101-69

The Bulls got their first win, and all it took was hosting the only team in the East that currently has a worse record. Chicago has gotten greater contributions than expected from a few players, giving fans some slight sense of hope for the future.

Justin Holiday scored a season high 25 points in the loss to Cleveland, and has shown the potential to repeat this type of performance. Jerian Grant put up a double-double, 12 points and 10 assists, against the Cavs and led the team in assists in all three games this week. Lauri Markkanen has made the most of his starting role so far this season, averaging 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds. Markkanen also hit what proved to be the game-winning shot against the Hawks.

About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks’ supporter

I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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