If you haven’t checked the standings in a while, you’ll quickly notice something familiar about the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks are back among the East’s elite after their slow start to the season.
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Their 94-90 win over the Chicago Bulls at Fiserv Forum on Friday night marks the first time the Bucks have won back-to-back games in nearly three weeks since Jan. 1.
More importantly, the win extends the team’s nearly undefeated record when their Big 3 of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are in the lineup.
Middleton (13 lost), Holiday (14 games) and Antetokounmpo (nine games) have been hampered by various ailments throughout the first half of the season, in addition to the starting center Brook Lopez who has only managed to appear in the celebrations of opening night due to a back injury that has now required him to have surgery.
As they did during the 2021 championship race, the Bucks’ three stars take turns taking charge of the game. Against Chicago, Antetokounmpo filled out the stat sheet while Khris Middleton stood out late in the fourth quarter.
Entering the game against the Bulls, the unit of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday ranked 11th among Milwaukee’s 3-man units for minutes played, highlighting how little they’ve had a chance to share the floor.
For comparison, last season the group was ranked sixth in the same category.
Without Lopez in the lineup, the Bucks turned to Bobby Portis as the starting five, with DeMarcus Cousins a recent addition to the big man rotation. Despite the loss of their defensive anchor, the Bucks are ranked sixth in the league for defensive rating.
Sitting in the bottom third in offensive and defensive efficiency in the first few weeks of the season, the Bucks now rank in the Top 10 on offense and defense.
In a season where injuries and health and safety protocols play a big part in regular-season history, bench wins feel more important than ever.
For now at least, the Bucks’ big three haven’t squandered a single opportunity.