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Should Milwaukee Bucks’ fans Be Worried About their First Quarter Struggles?

The Milwaukee Bucks always seem to get behind the eight-ball at the beginning of the game.

On November 16th, the Milwaukee Bucks played the Chicago Bulls at home for the first of four matchups between the two teams this season. There were several storylines attached to the game: Jabari Parker in his revenge game, Parker versus Giannis, Antetokounmpo and the Lopez brothers pitted against one another.

All of those stories were fun at the time, but one storyline from the game has a lasting impact: the Bucks’ tale of two halves.

The Bucks were outscored 63-45 in the first have and they ended up beating the Bulls 123-104. Milwaukee used a furious second-half rally to outscore the Bulls 78-41 and complete the comeback.

After the game, Coach Budenholzer bemoaned the Bucks’ effort coming out of the gate, “I think it’s fairly obvious with the difference with us between the first and second halves. I thought the competitive spirit, the competitiveness, the toughness, the energy, the effort, and the focus, all those things you have to have, were apparent in the third and fourth quarter. Hopefully, as a group, we can think about what we want to do that from the start of the game to the end of the game.”

Bucks’ star and team leader, Giannis Antetokounmpo said, “Coach came in and he let us know we weren’t putting enough effort and energy into the game and we had no pace on offense – we were trying to do it ourselves. He was mad. He was really upset. But he believes in us, he trusts us. We don’t have to have that type of half for us to pick it up. We have to be able to – from the first minute of the game – be able to set the tone and do what we do.”

The Bucks seem to always put themselves in an uphill battle at the beginning of the game. Let’s take a look at the Bucks’ splits quarter-by-quarter:

Quarter 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Net Rating -0.5 20.1 11.0 12.2
Pace 105.1 104.9 106.2 100.4
Point Differential 0.1 5.0 2.6 3.4
Ranking 17th 1st 4th 1st

The first quarter is the Bucks main problem. The second takeaway is a question actually: Does it really matter if the Bucks lag in the first quarter while they are demolishing teams in the other three quarters?

The Bucks are currently 15-6, which ranks them second in the Eastern Conference. Most teams would be more than thrilled to have the issues the Buck are having at the moment. Also, isn’t it better to start off slow than tail off late at the end of games?

Nevertheless, there is always room to improve. Coach Bud certainly would agree with that mentality, but that raises another question. How do the Bucks manufacture better first quarters? The Bucks offensive rating and defensive rating overall is 115.6 and 105.1 respectively. In first quarters, their offensive rating is 111.2 and their defensive rating is 111.7; the Bucks struggle on both sides of the ball to start. Therefore, the Bucks’ poor opening quarters do not have one clear manifestation. It could be an issue with the Bucks’ mindset beginning the game, and they generally need to settle into their rhythm and play style. It is hard to say that Coach Bud needs to make some changes to the defense because the scheme works in the rest of the quarters. On offense, Budenholzer designs the first play of each game to jump start the offense. Perhaps he could run more designed plays in the first quarter, but the beauty of the Bucks offense is the space and free-flowing nature of off-ball movement centered around Giannis.

The first quarter woes is a perplexing issue given the Bucks’ early season success, especially with the number of blow-outs the Bucks have put together. The coaching staff probably should not make any drastic changes as of this moment; if this issue continues late into the season, perhaps they should fiddle with some schemes or plays. Hopefully, the Bucks can organically produce better opening quarters and continue their success.

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