When Giannis Antetokounmpo exited the Milwaukee Bucks’ match against the Miami Heat in the first quarter with a knee injury, it looked like their chances of extending their 12-game winning streak were grim.
The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Antetokounmpo called a timeout late in the opening period to take himself out of the game and did not return for the remainder of the contest. While any ordinary team would have faltered in this type of situation, the rest of the Bucks proved their championship mettle and responded with a dominant showing.
Milwaukee’s balanced team effort helped them come away with a 128-99 win over the Heat to take their 13th consecutive victory and keep them a half game behind the Boston Celtics for the top seed in the East.
Two-time NBA All-Star Jrue Holiday led six different Bucks who scored at least 11 points during the evening as he finished with 24 points, five rebounds, seven assists, one block, and an impressive zero turnovers. Brook Lopez had a strong outing as well with 17 points on seven-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds, and one assist.
Milwaukee’s other two starters Grayson Allen and Jevon Carter added 16 and 11 points, respectively, while Bobby Portis had a double-double off the bench, contributing 18 points on seven-of-11 field goals, 11 rebounds, and one assist.
Meanwhile, three-time All-Star Khris Middleton contributed 12 points, four rebounds, five assists, and one steal as he continues to ramp up his workload. He missed the first 20 games of the season with a wrist injury and has subsequently missed time with knee soreness.
These types of games highlight the Bucks’ depth and are exactly why many have them pegged as one of the favorites in this year’s NBA title race. The supporting cast that they have built around Antetokounmpo fits perfectly around him and, more importantly, can stand up on their own in his absence.
The defensive backbone that Holiday and Lopez provide is elite and sets the tone for the rest of their team on that side of the court. Allen, Carter, and the recently acquired Jae Crowder are strong defensive contributors too and this has paved the way for Milwaukee to lead the league in defensive rating so far this season.
On offense, the capability of multiple players such as Holiday, Middleton, Carter, and veteran Joe Ingles to facilitate their offense ensures that head coach Mike Budenholzer can deploy a minimum of two playmakers on the court at any given time.
Though the Bucks may not have the high profile supporting casts that their other championship rivals employ, what they do have is a high character group that is filled with players who are more than content starring in their respective roles.
Their ability to step up when Antetokounmpo is sidelined has been crucial for them through the years, such as when they eliminated the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals despite their star forward missing the first two games of the series.
It is often said that a team needs a superstar to win a title, but what is often overlooked is that a stellar supporting cast is just as crucial when assembling a winning team–something that this Milwaukee team has to a tee.