Have the Celtics become the new Warriors? Plus, the Bucks might be back.

The Bounce Newslette | This is The Athletic’s daily NBA newsletter. Sign up here to receive The Bounce directly in your inbox.

You have another two days until I force a “Love Is Blind” Season 6 recap into this newsletter.

Fear the Deer?

Bucks beat Clippers, feel for real

The Bucks’ win against the Timberwolves (43-19, first in West) last week started their six-game win streak and came during a tense time for Milwaukee (41-21, second in East). Then, the Bucks won four games you can easily dismiss. Philly without Joel Embiid? That’s cake. Two games against the lowly Hornets? We yawn. Taking down the Bulls? Slightly tougher but not intriguing. Last night, though, the Bucks won their sixth straight game with a 113-106 victory over the Clippers (39-21, fourth in West), behind a game-high 41 points from Damian Lillard.

The Bucks took down the Clippers – at full strength aside from Russell Westbrook – and did so … I hope you’re sitting down for this part … without Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s right! The Bucks held the West’s current No. 4 seed to 106 points and 44 percent shooting without their best player and best defender. It makes you wonder if there’s something to the talk about their defense turning around with Doc Rivers as coach. 

Since Doc joined the sidelines, Milwaukee is fourth in defense over a 16-game stretch. The Bucks are tied for eighth in field goal percentage allowed and went from the worst at forcing turnovers to 15th. And Milwaukee has gone from a good defensive rebounding team to elite.

These are all encouraging signs that the early growing pains of Doc becoming coach could lead to prosperity the rest of the season. And hopefully Giannis will be back soon. The Bucks will need it because their next seven games are massive tests.

Those next seven Bucks games are as follows: at Warriors, at Lakers, at Clippers, at Kings, home to the Sixers, home to the Suns and then at Boston. That schedule is an “American Ninja Warrior” obstacle course.

About Last Night

The Lakers are moving up

Maybe you want to chalk it up to the Thunder (42-19, second in West) being on a back-to-back. Maybe you believe in the Lakers (34-29, ninth in West) making another late-season push. Regardless, the Lakers destroyed the Thunder last night with a 116-104 win. And it wasn’t that close, as evidenced by the Lakers having a 25-point, fourth-quarter lead before OKC waved the white flag.

D’Angelo Russell (game-high 26 points) led the scoring charge while going 5-of-11 from downtown. It was the rare game in which the Lakers made at least 16 3-pointers. Despite being 13th in 3-point percentage, the Lakers take the fewest attempts in the league. They’ve only made 16 or more in a game seven times this season but are 7-0 in those games.

Anthony Davis was great against Chet Holmgren, giving the redshirt rookie a masterclass in being a physical big man. Davis finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. LeBron James had a casual 19-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist performance.

The Lakers just moved within one game of Dallas (34-27, eighth in West) and 1.5 games of Sacramento (34-26, seventh in West). They have won seven of their last 10 and are even within shouting distance of Phoenix  (35-26, sixth in West), just two games back. The Lakers hold the tiebreaker over the Suns but don’t have it over Dallas. Considering they play the Kings twice in the next four games to try to tie their season series (0-2), the Lakers have a real chance at avoiding the Play-In altogether.

Bulls 113, Kings 109: The Kings were up 22 in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth quarter, but they surrendered a 36-18 final period to the Bulls and blew the home lead. DeMar DeRozan outscored the Kings in the fourth with 19 points on 7-of-7 shooting to finish with 33 points. Coby White had a career-high 37.

Wolves 119, Blazers 114: Anthony Edwards did not get the start because he lost track of time and was late to the opening tip, but he had 13 off the bench. Rudy Gobert led the Wolves with 25 as Minnesota had a sleepwalk victory over Portland (17-43, 14th in West) to grab the top spot in the West.

Jazz 127, Wizards 115: Jordan Clarkson torched the Wizards off the bench for 38 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The Wizards have now lost 15 in a row. There’s a chance they face Detroit on March 29 with a 27-game losing streak. 👀

Grizzlies 106, Nets 102: The Nets couldn’t stop Luke Kennard and are now 2.5 games out of 10th, instead of 1.5 games.

Copycat League

Are the Celtics the new Warriors?

The Celtics’ dominance this season has been historic. They’re challenging for the mark as the most dominant Celtics team ever, which is saying something. They have the best offense in NBA history while sporting the fifth-highest margin of victory of all time. Boston is absolutely running over opponents left and right. Oh, and the Celtics haven’t lost in over a month (Feb. 1).

In John Hollinger’s latest, he talked about the analytics angle of everybody in their rotation being able to torch you from 3-point range.

“While the Celtics’ utter annihilation of the league this season gives them dominant stats on several levels, the kernel of it is that everybody can shoot, and thus opponents have no help defense. Boston’s top eight players all shoot over six 3-point attempts per 100 possessions, and all shoot at least 35 percent from distance; as a team, Boston has by far the highest 3-point rate (nearly every other shot) and ranks fourth in accuracy at 38.6 percent.”

Hollinger wasn’t exaggerating that every other shot is a 3-pointer. They take a 3-pointer on 47.1 percent of their shots. And he wondered if the league will look like this in five years. For years, it was foolish to see if you could mimic what the championship-level Warriors could do. They had the two greatest 3-point shooters ever. Playing that style without those guys wasn’t supposed to work. Now, look at what Boston is doing.

Maybe that’s the game’s evolution happening right in front of us. It’s extremely difficult to get big minutes on good teams without being able to shoot from outside. One team grabbing a handful of those guys who shoot it prolifically is really difficult. Boston having eight of them this season is a mutation. But it’s a copycat league, and, if the Celtics win it all, everybody will look to replicate it. The midrange game hasn’t died. It’s just been rehomed to the 3-point line.

Bounce Passes

The Wolves are bad in the clutch, and it’s pretty concerning.

Devin Booker’s ankle injury could really cost Phoenix.

Herb Jones has been one of the best defenders, but now he’s a real weapon on offense.

Khaman Maluach is a name you should know for the 2025 NBA Draft.

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Celtics-Cavs (7:30 p.m. TNT). Boston (48-12, first in East) goes for its 12th straight victory, but Cleveland (39-21, third in East) has the NBA’s third-best defense.
  • Second Screen: Suns-Nuggets (10 p.m. TNT). This would be a lot cooler if it had a healthy Devin Booker.
  • League Pass Game of the Night: Pacers-Mavs (8 p.m.). Two epic offenses. Two bad defenses. Three-hundred points, anybody? Full schedule here.

(Top photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images )

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top