- Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print.
In this week’s 10 things, we highlight trends at the top of the East, two MVP favorites, a true-blue superstar in Oklahoma City, a rising top pick and much more.
1. When Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks get it moving — early
The Indiana Pacers somehow blew out Milwaukee Thursday, but the most important general trend lines are pointing up. The Bucks are in a virtual tie for fifth in points per possession since Feb. 1. Their half-court offense ranks No. 4 in that stretch, per Cleaning The Glass.
We know Milwaukee’s defense is impenetrable around the basket; it’s probably the league’s best defense at full throttle, though the Cleveland Cavaliers have a case. We know the Bucks are huge, and mean, and that they will bully everyone in the paint and on the glass. Their half-court offense has been their only real uncertainty for a half-decade now. When it works, they win.
For most of this season, it sputtered. The easy take was to wait for Khris Middleton, the Bucks’ most important ball handler. Middleton is still not all the way back — he doesn’t seem to rise quite as high on his jumper yet — but he’s getting there. In his absence, Jrue Holiday assumed more ballhandling duty — and reached a new, vicious confidence level with his step-back 3.
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