In my last blog post, right around the All-Star break, I noted that there would probably be some tough times for us in the second half of the season. We’ve definitely encountered those.
We’ve had some losing streaks, struggled a bit to re-establish our rhythm, and lost some games we probably should have won.
But nobody quit.
Everybody stayed the course, and we’re still fighting. That’s the biggest thing that has stood out for me about the way the team has come together down the stretch. Each player has kept their focus. That’s Milwaukee Bucks basketball. That’s our identity.
We have one common goal every night, and that’s to win. We’re all still on that same page, despite the adversity we’ve faced the past several weeks.
After the trades made at the deadline, all of us have had to make some adjustments. It’s been a process. Obviously, we’ve been kind of up and down since then. Those guys we brought in are playing significant minutes, and it’s going to take some time.
When you don’t have a training camp to get to know each other, it’s going to take a little bit for guys to figure each other out, especially with as many new guys as we brought in. That’s usually stuff you don’t see. It happens behind closed doors in practices long before the season starts. Instead, you’re seeing guys trying to figure it out on the fly, and it’s taking time. But we’re getting better and better, more cohesive by the day. We just have to continue working, and hopefully, it continues to improve. Michael Carter-Williams is a very good player. He’s still young yet, and he’s learning. He needs to continue developing to help this team, and I believe he will. He has the motivation. He came from a different type of situation in Philadelphia, so I think you can see how exciting it is for him to be on a team that’s competing and playing for something.
You can definitely feel the intensity starting to pick up the last couple weeks as we close in on the playoffs. You have a bunch of teams fighting for their lives right now, especially here in the East, with so many teams still in play. Depending on where you are in the standings, every game really does matter. We just have to stay diligent, take care of ourselves, and not worry about anybody else.
We’ve made a lot of progress this year defensively, and I think we’re a great defensive team when we really commit to it. But we have lapses at times on defense and it shows — especially early in games — and we fall behind. When you’re going against good NBA teams, you’re not going to be able to come back every night. It’s just a matter of committing to it on a nightly basis, and being consistent with our effort. When we do that, we’re pretty good.
Personally, I believe in just staying the course. It’s a long season. I’m just trying to be as consistent as I can, and help the guys as much as I can. A lot of the guys on the team are young and inexperienced, but I’ve been in these situations before, not only in Memphis, but early in my career with Portland. As the playoffs get closer, I’ll talk to some of the guys about what to expect, and hopefully I can help them out as they go through those things for the first time. I’m only 26, but I take some pride in being one of the veteran leaders on this team.
CLOSE GAMES AND CLOSURE
Late in the season here, we’ve found ourselves playing a lot of close games. It’s something that will definitely help us to a degree once the playoffs roll around. The postseason is a little different, but any experience you can get is helpful. Hopefully, if we’re in a tight game in the playoffs, having been there before will benefit us.
When you have so many games come down to one play and one shot, a lot of times it won’t go your way. We’d been dealing with that over the few weeks after the All-Star break. But the tide turned a bit a couple weeks back when we beat Miami at the buzzer. It was like it was just time for one of them to go our way, and it was great because it ended a long losing streak.
That whole sequence was kind of a blur. It was a jump ball and I was just trying to make a play. I got the jump, but I missed the layup. Fortunately, Zaza was able to get the ball back and found the open man. Khris Middleton just made a big shot. There was no play drawn up, we just went off instinct.
Khris has been great these last few weeks. He’s a great shooter, and every team needs a guy like that. It’s been especially important for us with some other guys struggling a bit offensively. He’s playing at a very high level, and it’s an exciting time for him. He’s a great guy, so he deserves everything that’s coming his way. He’s put himself in a great position to be successful — not just now, but in the future.
It’s an exciting time right now for the city of Milwaukee, and I’m really happy to be a part of it. I think everybody knows when the weather starts changing a little bit outside, the better teams rise up inside. You can see which teams are revving up, and which teams are thinking about going home. Right now for us, it’s about getting as many wins as possible.
I think we’ve shown what we’re all about, that we’re going to keep fighting until the end of the road. We’re still working just to make the playoffs. That’s the first thing we have to do, whatever seed we get doesn’t matter. I just want to make it. So we just have to continue to fight and make sure we get in. That’s the mentality you need to have at this point — to do whatever, by any means necessary, to make it. We’ve worked too hard up to this point not to. So hopefully we’re able to do that, make it and then go from there.
To the fans, a big thank you for the continued support. We’ve gone through a rough stretch, but you’ve still been there every night, and we appreciate that. Just continue to support us through these last few games, and together in a couple weeks, we’ll bring postseason basketball back to Milwaukee.