The Milwaukee Bucks have become the measuring stick of the NBA

Once upon a time, the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo faced off against the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. Antetokounmpo and the Bucks generated extra heat every time the two teams met and teased James with the strangeness of him. My God, how the turntables have turned.

Friday night’s matchup on national television between the Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers cemented Milwaukee’s place at the top of the NBA food chain. The roles were reversed as the great Lakers, winners of six of their last eight before the game, were very excited for their matchup with the two-time MVP and 2021 NBA champions.

The Lakers used the game as a yardstick to validate the progress they’ve made since the start of the season.

They started very slowly with a 2-10 record and a panicked fan base. Both social media and NBA analysts were discussing their downfall and whether they should blow up the team. Entering the game on a hot streak, they improved their focus and increased their energy level against one of the best teams in the league.

Since Mike Budenholzer arrived in Milwaukee five years ago, the Bucks have been legitimate title contenders. Not only has he unlocked the greatness of Antetokounmpo, but he has also maximized the talent that surrounds him. They may not have the most talented roster, but they have the best-fit group of players. He has resulted in several deep postseasons and another on the horizon.

Still, after half a decade of being on top, it’s strange to see one of the GOAT
basketball are taken very seriously. For Milwaukee, this was just another matchup on the schedule. For Los Angeles, this was a contest that they had circled around for a number of reasons.

The Lakers played like a team possessed. They finished the game making 53.6 percent of their shots and a whopping 42.3 percent of their 3-pointers (they’ve made only 32.8 percent of their 3-pointers this season, ranking 26th in the NBA). ). Anthony Davis had the best game of his season, finishing with 44 points (18 of 27 from the field), 10 rebounds and 4 assists. James contributed 28 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists.

Heck, even Russell Westbrook understood the importance of the game. He played the new role of him off the bench to perfection, not forcing shots but feeding his teammates. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting, 7 rebounds and 11 assists.

Davis and company then talked about how he and Giannis bring out the best in each other (probably more like Antetokounmpo brings out the best in Davis). The NBA media is freaking out that the Lakers are back and legitimate contenders again.

That’s the wild part. An early December game suddenly means a lot to the big bad Lakers and their trio of future Hall of Famers. For Milwaukee, win or lose, this was just another game. There are no season-altering conclusions or validation of the progress they’ve made. You can’t predict future success based on a measly matchup with a mediocre team.

All of that is not to hate the Lakers. It’s to appreciate how far the Bucks have come.

Is it so the yardstick for the rest of the NBA. Every night is another team’s big game. For the Bucks, they are focused on themselves and getting better every day.

At one point, you went out to play with your friends for the last time and no one knew about it. We’re officially back in the good old days of Bucks basketball. Let’s take a second to appreciate the greatness we are witnessing. Even after a loss.

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