NBA

Giannis' shooting woes as Milwaukee fall short again – Bucks season review in STATS data

By Sports Desk September 21, 2020

Another season and another missed opportunity for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Prior to the season shutting down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bucks were the team to beat in the NBA.

But Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were not the same inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort – the Eastern Conference top seeds eliminated by the Miami Heat 4-1 in the semi-finals.

While superstar Antetokounmpo claimed back-to-back MVP honours, there are more questions than answers in Milwaukee, where the Bucks are still waiting for their first championship since 1971.

Antetokounmpo is also set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season, and he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

As the ageing Bucks try to pick up the pieces and provide adequate support for Antetokounmpo in pursuit of NBA glory, we review Milwaukee's season using STATA data.

 

Bucks fall short… again

In 2018-19, the Bucks finished with the best regular-season record at 60-22 as Antetokounmpo earned his first MVP award. But Milwaukee went down to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors 4-2 in the Eastern Conference finals.

This season, the Bucks owned a league-best 56-17 record, but their form faded dramatically following the restart. Milwaukee became the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign prior to that (52-8).

Unconvincing against the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the first round, the Bucks were no match for Jimmy Butler and the red-hot Heat as their wait for a first NBA Finals appearance since 1974 goes on.

The Bucks are the second team ever to have the outright best record in the NBA two seasons in a row and not reach the Finals in either season, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

 

Giannis struggles from the line

For all his remarkable skill, Antetokounmpo's shooting remains an Achilles heel. The "Greek Freak" and his free-throw shooting was a lot worse this season – it was the third largest season-to-season decline in NBA history among players with at least 600 attempts in both campaigns.

In 2018-19, Antetokounmpo was 72.9 per cent from the line but he was just 63.3 per cent this season, a differential of 9.6 per cent. San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan tops the list with a difference of 14.3 per cent from 1999-2000 to 2000-01, ahead of Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal (13.2 per cent from 2002-03 to 2003-04).

To put things into context, Antetokounmpo missed 231 free throws during the regular season, and the Bucks' 17 losses during the regular season were by a combined 157 points.

When Giannis is shooting well from the free-throw line, the Bucks are usually winning. Over the past two seasons (regular season and playoffs), Milwaukee have a record of 61-8 (88.4 per cent) when he makes at least 70 per cent of his free throws in a game – including a 9-0 record in the playoffs. So him making more shots from the line could be a key to their future success.

 

Antetokounmpo's health and fitness

The 25-year-old, who averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season to become the first player to receive MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016, missed Milwaukee's Game 5 loss to the Heat due to an ankle injury.

Antetokounmpo re-injured his right ankle in Game 4 but sat out the must-win clash as the Bucks departed the playoffs, despite Khris Middleton's best efforts.

Over his career, Antetokounmpo has played at least 35 minutes in less than half of his playoff games (21 of 43). Lakers superstar LeBron James (224 of 249), on the other hand, has done that in 90 per cent of his playoff games.

Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30.4 minutes per game during the regular season. In NBA history, there has only been one team to win the NBA title without having a player average at least 32 minutes per game in the regular season: the 2013-14 Spurs.

So basically, if the Bucks are going to win a title, they are likely going to need their star player to play more minutes.

Three-point defending

As good as the Bucks are, they are obviously not without their flaws.

Three-point defense was a big issue in the regular season and playoffs in 2019-20. Milwaukee allowed 14 three-pointers per game in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs, both of which were the most in NBA history (minimum 10 games for the playoffs).

Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks have plenty to figure out heading into 2020-21.

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    The 5-0 Seahawks are coming off a bye week and have QB Russell Wilson putting together an MVP year, although he has struggled against the Cardinals in the past.

    Meanwhile, Kyler Murray is impressing in an Arizona team that beat Seattle when they last met in December 2019.

    We use Stats Perform data to look at that game and the rest of the Week 7 slate.
     

    FEATURE GAME

    Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, 8.20pm (all times Eastern)

    - The Seahawks are 6-1 (.857) in games after a bye week since 2013, which is the best record in the NFL. The lone loss during this span came against the Cardinals in 2015 (39-32).

    - Since 2018, Wilson is averaging 183.3 passing yards and has three passing touchdowns to one interception over four games against Arizona. Against all other opponents in this span, Wilson is averaging 252.3 passing yards and has an 82/14 TD-INT ratio (33 games).

    - Murray completed a career-low nine passes in the win over the Cowboys, but still finished with 188 passing yards. The last player to rack up that many yards through the air on fewer than 10 completions was Brian Hoyer on October 12, 2014 (217 yards on eight completions versus Pittsburgh).

    OTHER KEY GAMES

    Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans - Sunday, 1pm

    - This is just the sixth game in the Super Bowl era between two teams entering the game at 5-0 or better. Each of the previous five were won by a team that went on to make the Super Bowl (1973 Vikings, 2004 Patriots, 2007 Patriots twice, 2015 Broncos). Both franchises are 5-0 for the second time in their history. Pittsburgh started 7-0 in 1978 and went on to go 14-2 and win the Super Bowl, while Tennessee were 10-0 in 2008.

    San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots - Sunday, 4.25pm

    - Sunday's game will be played 6,566 days since the last time the Patriots took the field on or after October 1 with a sub-.500 record. This last occurred on November 3, 2002, when New England travelled to Buffalo to face – just as this week, with the 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo – a former Patriots QB. They defeated Drew Bledsoe and the Bills 38-7.

    Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos - Sunday, 4.25pm

    - Patrick Mahomes is the third quarterback in NFL history to have at least 15 TD passes and no more than one interception over his team's first six games of a season, along with Aaron Rodgers in 2014 and Tom Brady in 2015.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders - Sunday, 4.05pm

    - After going down 10-0 in the first quarter, Tampa Bay ripped off 38 unanswered points to defeat the Packers last week, the second-longest unanswered scoring run in franchise history. The longest came in a 41-0 win over Chicago back on September 10, 2000. Tampa Bay's defense held Green Bay QB Rodgers to a 35.4 passer rating in last week's win, the third-lowest of his career. The Buccaneers have now caused two of Rodgers' three career pick sixes after Jamel Dean took one to the house in the second quarter.

    Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams - Monday, 8.15pm

    - The Bears improved to 5-1 with a 23-16 win over the Panthers in Week 6, their best start since going 5-1 in 2012. Chicago's average margin of victory is just 4.0 points this season compared to 19.4 points during the 2012 start.

    ELSEWHERE...

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    - Washington lost to the Giants 20-19 in the Meadowlands last week, their first one-point defeat since a 24-23 decision against the Cowboys in Week 16, 2013. Sunday was the eighth time since 2018 that Washington have had at least two fourth-down conversions, tied for third-most in the league (0-8 in those games).

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  • El Clasico: Barcelona treading new ground with Koeman's 4-2-3-1 El Clasico: Barcelona treading new ground with Koeman's 4-2-3-1

    Ronald Koeman will get his first taste of El Clasico from a dugout when Barcelona host Real Madrid on Saturday.

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    Barca also lost 1-0 in their previous league game, away to Getafe, but a 5-1 thumping of Ferencvaros in the Champions League was a tonic and, in truth, that defeat at Coliseum Alfonso Perez felt more like an aberration during what has mostly been an encouraging start under Koeman.

    The Clasico is always the acid test, though – and Barca, barring a dramatic change in system, will line up for this one in a 4-2-3-1 formation, something they have not done for at least the previous 46 meetings.

    BREAKING THE WHEEL

    Nobody need tell Koeman about Barca's traditional adherence to 4-3-3. He had enough experience as a player for the Netherlands and the Blaugrana to know such a system like the back of his hand, even if Johan Cruyff's peak 'Dream Team' – such as the one that won the 1992 European Cup final through a Koeman extra-time goal – thrived instead in a 3-4-3.

    The fact is, though, that Barca have doubled down on 4-3-3 since Frank Rijkaard took charge in 2003. He, Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino, Luis Enrique, Ernesto Valverde and, eventually, Quique Setien – all have either stuck religiously to the system or at least made good use of it.

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    It's yielded mixed success, as you might expect. Barca won 17 of those 39 games in 4-3-3 – a 43.6 per cent winning rate – and lost 12. They scored 71 goals and conceded 53.

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    Koeman's set-up, then, is a big departure from the norm. But will it work against Madrid?

    FATI AND FRENKIE ON FIRE

    Koeman explained this month that 4-2-3-1 was preferable because of Barca's lack of wingers. "Looking at the quality that we have, this formation is perfect for the team," he told Barca TV.

    Fans may not have warmed to the idea at first, but Koeman's approach makes sense – and there are certain players thriving in this formation.

    For one thing, it gets Ansu Fati involved closer to goal. In four league games, the young Spain star has attempted 15 dribbles, created three chances and scored three goals. The freedom to cut inside from the left has also liberated Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest at left-back, each of whom have also created three goalscoring chances. Given Madrid presently have no fully fit right-backs, that should worry Zidane.

    Another to benefit is Frenkie de Jong, a player who admitted to underwhelming in his first season after joining from Ajax for an initial €75million. He has performed positively in a central axis, usually alongside Sergio Busquets, asserting himself in games far more even though Barca's average possession figure has dropped to 59.2 per cent, lower than in any of the past 11 seasons.

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  • Pele at 80: How the 1970 World Cup propelled Brazil into the global conscience Pele at 80: How the 1970 World Cup propelled Brazil into the global conscience

    Pele's career goals tally may be open to debate but there is no questioning his greatness. 

    The Brazilian legend starred for Santos and changed the game during his spell with the New York Cosmos. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his achievements in international football, helping the Selecao win the World Cup on three occasions. 

    The first – in 1958 – saw Pele score twice in the final when aged 17 years and 249 days. Four years later, injury curtailed his involvement, but Brazil still retained the Jules Rimet Trophy. 

    In 1970, the national hero helped leave an indelible mark on the history of the sport. Pele, having said he would not play another World Cup after 1966, was awarded the Golden Ball, given to the best player at the tournament. 

    His legacy as one of the best players to ever grace a pitch still remains strong as he celebrates turning 80 on Friday.

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    Growing up in England with football in the 1960s and 1970s was very different from today.

    The foreign superstars playing in English football were from the rest of Great Britain and Ireland, not from mainland Europe or South America.

    The best teams and players in the world were not on TV every week. There was no live football on television apart from the FA Cup final, the Home Internationals and World Cups.

    Great Britain was an island, both geographically and in terms of football.

    It was not too different across Europe. Live games were not regularly shown, in domestic or UEFA competitions.

    As a result, there was no homogenised football where teams played roughly the same style. There was no internet, no YouTube, no sports channels to catch glimpses of football outside your own country. When a World Cup came around you saw players you had only read about in books or newspapers.  

    You saw genuinely new things that delighted, enthralled and shocked the viewing audience, such as the famous Cruyff turn, the ticker tape at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires and fouls in the opposition half by a "rush goalie" like Ramon Quiroga of Peru.

    But nothing stands out in that era as much as the Brazil side of 1970. Still vaunted as the best team ever in some quarters, it is hard to argue against the fact that they, and their talisman Pele, had the greatest impact on world football.

    From the iconic yellow shirts, blue shorts and white stockings in the first competition to be broadcast live in colour, to their beautiful and effective style of play. Kenneth Wolstenholme's famous description of their "sheer, delightful football" summed up how Brazil in 1970 captured the hearts of all fans and encapsulated everything great about the world's favourite sport.

    Mario Zagallo became the first man to win the trophy as a player and then a coach. His team was the first since the 1930s to win all their World Cup matches en route to the trophy.

    Six games, six wins in qualifying. Then six games and six wins at the finals, scoring at a rate of 3.2 goals per game in Mexico. Only one team has averaged more goals per game since 1958 than this brilliant Brazil side and that was Hungary in 1982 whose average was boosted by a freak 10-1 win over El Salvador.

    This 1970 Brazil squad scored three or more goals in five of their six matches; a feat only matched in World Cup history by the West German side of 1954.

    Jairzinho scored in all six matches, becoming the only player to net in every single round at the World Cup finals, although they needed to be prolific as they only kept one clean sheet in the six matches they played.

    Of course, Brazil are famed for their long-range shooting. Stats Perform have analysed all the World Cup finals matches back to and including 1966. During that time, the Selecao have scored 37 times from outside the box – 11 more than closest rivals Germany and over double any other side.

    It's not just quantity though, it is about the quality of a shot – only South Korea (6 per cent) have scored with a higher percentage of their long-distance attempts than Brazil, who have netted one in every 23 attempts (4.4 per cent).

    Team

    Goals (outside box)

    Brazil

    37

    Germany

    26

    Netherlands

    16

    Korea Republic

    14

    Argentina

    13

    And they have netted 13 from direct free-kicks, more than double any other team at the World Cup in that same period.

    Team

    Direct Free Kick Goals

    Brazil

    13

    Germany

    6

    Korea Republic

    5

    Argentina

    5

    Between 1966 and 2018, only nine teams have scored two direct free-kicks at a World Cup finals. Four of those teams were Brazilian squads including the 1970 vintage.

    There are so many iconic moments that the 1970 tournament lingers stronger in the memory than any other. And Brazil and Pele were at the heart of most of those.

    Bobby Moore's tackle on Jairzinho, Pele leaping to power home a header for Brazil's 100th goal at the World Cup finals and another header by the world's greatest footballer to force arguably the best save of all time by Gordon Banks.

    There was Pele's audacious shot from his own half (59 yards) against Czechoslovakia which narrowly missed. That was not even his longest attempt either, as he failed with a shot from 75 yards against Uruguay!

    The Uruguayans were also on the end of one of the most outrageous dummies ever seen as Pele ran toward a pass with the goalkeeper advancing and then let the ball run between them, confounding the goalkeeper by running straight past, retrieving the ball, only to screw his shot wide and deny us one of the most outrageous goals of all time.

    And, of course, one of the most iconic goals in football history was scored when Brazil netted their fourth in the final against Italy, courtesy of Carlos Alberto. That goal was the epitome of the style that team oozed. A patient build-up, then devastating speed and clinical efficiency in front of goal.

    That goal saw nine passes, but was typical of Brazil's measured build-up. They averaged far more moves of 10 passes or more than any other team at the 1970 finals.

    Team

    Sequences per game of 10+ open play passes

    Brazil

    5.2

    England

    3.5

    Czechoslovakia

    2.7

    Peru

    2.5

    Romania

    2.3

     

     

    Tournament average

    1.9

    And as you can see below they were prepared to hang on to the ball to find the right moment to strike, performing with the grace and rhythm of a slow, quick, quick of the Samba.

    Team

    Ave passes/sequence

    Ave Sequence time (secs)

    Brazil

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    Germany

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    10.6

    England

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    10.5

    Romania

    3.0

    10.2

    Czechoslovakia

    3.0

    10.0

    That fourth and final goal against Italy was inevitably set up by Pele. That assist was his sixth of the tournament and remains a record tally for a single World Cup tournament that Stats Perform have analysed.

    He created 28 chances in total, 27 from open play. Only Johan Cruyff (29) in 1974 has created more in a single tournament since 1970, having played a game more. 

    Player

    Team

    Assists

    Pele

    Brazil 1970

    6

    Maradona

    Argentina 1986

    5

    Littbarski

    Germany 1982

    5

    Gadocha

    Poland 1974

    5

    Häßler

    Germany 1994

    5

    Pele was the second most prolific player in relation to attacking contribution at the 1970 World Cup when combining Expected Goals and Expected Assists per 90 minutes, scoring four goals and registering six assists. He was narrowly behind Gerd Muller who netted 10 goals, but those two are way out ahead of anyone else in the tournament.

    It was not all grace and guile from the three-time World Cup winner.

    Having been fouled repeatedly and injured in both the 1962 and 1966 editions, Pele certainly showed he knew how to look after himself in 1970. Only five players since 1966 have committed more fouls in a single tournament than the 23 the playmaker was penalised for in 1970.

    Pele retired from international football in 1971 and Brazil have spent many years since trying to emulate that 1970 team's iconic achievement, with limited success.

    Although they won the World Cup in 1994 and again in 2002, there were criticisms of those teams' styles of play, while the beautiful attacking flair of the squads of 1982 and 1986 ultimately went unrewarded as they were knocked out of the tournament early.

    Perhaps Andy Warhol was right when he said: "Pele is one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries."

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