Daily NBA Fix: Young Milwaukee Bucks On The Rise?

Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center/forward Greg Monroe (15) looks to pass the ball against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center/forward Greg Monroe (15) looks to pass the ball against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks won their third game straight Tuesday night — beating the Miami Heat — and are still in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference.

Before the season started most experts wisely had the Milwaukee Bucks as a playoff team. After all, they had fought their way into the playoffs last season and even won two games. Their young core looked ready to take the next step and do more than just survive in the Eastern Conference.

But like most things in sports and in life, things haven’t exactly gone as planned. The season started off with a three-game losing streak and as recently earlier this month they were eight games below .500.

Tuesday night, though, the Bucks reeled off their third straight win with a 91-79 victory over the Miami Heat. Sure, the Heat were a little short-handed with Goran Dragic not in the mix, but a lot of teams would be happy to trot out Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.

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Both Bosh and Whiteside had 23 points each, but Khris Middleton led the way for Milwaukee with 22 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists while Greg Monroe had a double-double as well on 15 points and 10 rebounds. Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s 14 points and six rebounds didn’t hurt either.

A 48.6 percent shooting night by the Bucks was more than the Heat could handle as they only shot 36.5 percent from the field.

Perhaps more importantly than beating the Heat, the Bucks also have beaten the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets. Not exactly juggernauts, but not pushovers either. Milwaukee is starting to shake the bad habits that have them a 25th in the NBA with a minus-4.4 net rating.

In the month on January they’ve gotten close to breaking even in that regard at minus-0.4, good for 19th in the NBA. A 6-4 record this month isn’t overwhelming, but they are also only three games out of a playoff spot with a 19-25 record on the season.

The East has gotten better, but so have the Milwaukee Bucks. They haven’t take the leap some were expecting this season, but taking care of business on the road in Miami is a baby step in the right direction.

Pelicans, Davis Handle Timberwolves

The New Orleans Pelicans continue to have their struggles this season, but it is still clear Anthony Davis is their future. They needed his 35 points and seven rebounds in their 114-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

The Pelicans were expected to grow more this season, but it just hasn’t been happening. Tyreke Evans and Davis are part of their best and most-used lineup that outscores opponents by 10 points, but as you go down the list it is clear that many of their other player combinations have glaring issues.

It hasn’t helped either that Eric Gordon fractured his finger and will be out indefintely, putting more weight on Davis’ shoulders.

What the Pelicans do next will obviously be built around Davis, but he’s going to need more help despite these standout performances.

Durant, Thunder Put Nuggets In Their Place

While the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are the two best teams in the Western Conference, Kevin Durant isn’t happy that his team hasn’t been included in that discussion.

However, picking up another win last night — this time in a 110-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets — another win helps them keep pace in the West. Durant and the Thunder have mostly remained healthy this season and they’ll need to keep that way if they don’t want to fall behind two teams doing historic things — offensively and defensively — in their conference.

That’s probably why despite how good the Thunder have been, they are still an afterthought in the West. They will have to knock off the NBA’s current best team or the best team of the current generation to advance in the playoffs.

Next: Ogden’s Opus: What Does It Mean To Be NBA Elite?

Good luck.