Middleton is expected to miss the entire second-round series versus the Boston Celtics due to a sprained MCL, and that injury has led the Bucks to be considered an underdog by many people.
However, the team has plenty of depth, and that depth shined brightly in Game 1 against Boston, as did a certain two-time MVP who may win the award again this year.
The Bucks Are Showing The Heart Of A Champion
When Middleton went down in Game 2 of the Chicago series, some thought it would give the Bulls a real opening to compete and possibly win.
But instead, the Bucks won each of the next three games, taking each of them by at least 16 points.
The excuse that one could’ve made was that the Bulls were a young team that didn’t know how to win yet and that they weren’t at full strength.
The Celtics, on the other hand, have been probably the NBA’s hottest team since mid-season and perhaps its best defensive team.
Their best player, Jayson Tatum, was seemingly unstoppable in Boston’s first-round sweep over the Brooklyn Nets, averaging 29.5 points and 7.3 assists per game while making 41.9 percent of his 3-pointers.
But Giannis Antetokounmpo came through on Sunday in Game 1 while outplaying Tatum.
The Greek Freak did not shoot well at all, but he had a triple-double with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.
— Ballon Orange Djoloff (@BallonDjoloff) May 1, 2022
In the meantime, Tatum was rendered vulnerable with 21 points on 6-of-18 shooting, while co-star Jaylen Brown was even worse with 12 points on 4-of-13 from the field.
GIANNIS DENIES JAYSON TATUM WITH A MASSIVE BLOCK 😱
— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 (@sportingnews) May 1, 2022
Defense Is Getting The Job Done For Milwaukee
No matter what era one is talking about, defense has always been the key to winning championships in the NBA, as it has been in the NFL.
When the Bucks dominated Chicago without Middleton, they did so by holding them to 100 points or less in all three games without their second-best player.
In two of those contests, Chicago also shot under 40 percent from the field.
The Bucks’ defensive mastery continued in Game 1 against Boston, and one may say that they even defeated Boston at its own game.
The Celtics only shot 33.3 percent while committing 18 turnovers, and those missed shots and miscues led to 28 fast-break points for the Bucks.
Milwaukee shot just 41.1 percent itself, which is very poor, but it won the contest on the strength of its defense, just as its defense allowed it to win the NBA title last year.
If they can hold the Celtics under 100 points a few more times in this series, the Bucks could be playing for a spot in the NBA Finals later this month against either the Miami Heat or Philadelphia 76ers.