The Milwaukee Bucks didn’t have the easiest of starts to their title defense, with injuries to various key players slowing their stride in the opening part of the season. That contributed to a 6-8 start, but they’ve since righted the ship by going 13-3 in their last 16 games and moving up to second in the Eastern Conference with a 19-11 record.
Key contributors have been missing for stretches so far this season, with Brook Lopez playing in one game before suffering a back injury that eventually needed surgery. Khris Middleton has already missed 9 games, while Jrue Holiday has missed 7. Bobby Portis also missed time early in the season with a hamstring problem, and Donte DiVincenzo hasn’t played a game since injuring his foot in the playoffs.
Even Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 27.0 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.6 BPG with a PER of 30.47, has missed a few games.
With all of those factors considered, it was impressive that the Bucks have managed to stay near the top of the suddenly hyper-competitive Eastern Conference.
However, the problem now is that they’re facing an uncertain few weeks as Antetokounmpo, Wesley Matthews, and DiVincenzo have entered health and safety protocols. In their latest game against the Pacers, that meant that the Bucks had seven people on the injured list. Holiday still managed to lead them to a 114-99 victory behind his 26 points and 14 assists, but it’s unclear as to how long they’ll be missing the Greek Freak.
If they’re lucky, the Bucks will see their superstar return earlier than expected, as was the case with LeBron James. With Middleton still nursing a knee injury, and with Lopez already gone for the foreseeable future, things might get rough.
The fortunate news for Milwaukee is that they have a relatively survivable schedule until the beginning of 2022. In their next nine games they’ll face New Orleans (twice), Cleveland, Houston, Boston, Orlando (twice), and Detroit. Even while not at full-strength, they’ll probably manage and come away with a positive record over those contests.
It’s unfortunate that so many teams are now suffering outbreaks, as the Bulls and Nets have also recently lost large chunks of their rosters to safety protocols.