Houston Rockets vs Milwaukee Bucks game preview - December 11

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v Milwaukee Bucks
Houston Rockets v Milwaukee Bucks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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Houston Rockets vs Milwaukee Bucks: Stats to know

The Milwaukee Bucks own the league’s fifth-best net rating (+4.9) because of an elite defense and a league-average offense. Offensively, the Bucks don’t do anything particularly well. The only playtype they rank in the top ten for points per possession is pick and roll ball handler possessions, and they’re tenth at 0.90 points per possession. 

Due to the presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, the Bucks rank second in post up frequency and fifth in pick and roll roll man frequency but rank 18th and 23rd in points per possession. The one area where they have found success is on catch and shoot opportunities. They average the fifth most points per game at 37.7 and have the tenth-best effective field goal percentage (55.6%). 

An area to watch is the Bucks in transition. The Bucks are 14th in transition frequency at 16.9% and 23rd in points per possession at 1.08, which both represent significant steps back from last season. In 2021-22, the Bucks were second in transition frequency (19%) and 13th in points per possession (1.14). The 3.3-point drop in points per game in transition explains a lot of the 2.3-point drop in their offensive rating from this season to last.     

While the Bucks’ offense isn’t anything special, their defense is another story. The Bucks have the league’s second-best defensive rating (108), and it’s built to fundamental perfection. Their 50.8% opponent effective field goal percentage leads the league by an incredible margin. The gap between the Bucks and the second-place New York Knicks is the same as the gap between the Knicks and the Utah Jazz in 15th. 

The Bucks aren’t simply riding fortunate opponent shooting either. Their defensive shot chart is a thing of beauty. They allow the eighth fewest shots zero to three feet from the rim, the second-fewest layups, and the fewest dunks. What they do allow are the most mid-range jumpers ten to 16 feet from the rim and the second most long-twos. 

In years past, the Bucks’ excellent 2-point opponent shot chart came at the expense of threes. However, this season, the Bucks are allowing the 3rd fewest percentage of shots from 3-point range and are tied for first in the lowest rate of corner threes. 

Rounding out the Bucks’ defense is excellent rebounding and discipline. They are fifth in defensive rebounding percentage and fourth in opponent free throw to field goal attempt rate. The only area where the Bucks’ defense isn’t elite is at forcing turnovers, where they rank 28th at 11.4%. 

The Bucks have the most fundamentally sound defense in the NBA. They prevent high-efficiency shots, rebound well, and don’t send teams to the line. The trade-off might mean fewer steals, but it is clearly worth it.