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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    When Frank Lampard was questioned over Chelsea's poor defensive record in his tenure as manager, he suggested his goalkeepers were to blame.

    Ahead of Tuesday's home game against Sevilla, which will kick off the Blues' Champions League campaign, it was put to Lampard that his side were conceding enough goals for him to rank him among the club's worst bosses ever in that category.

    Indeed, Chelsea have conceded nine goals in their first five Premier League games this season – three coming in Saturday's 3-3 home draw with Southampton – and leaked 54 in the 2019-20 top flight, more than any other team to finish in the top 10.

    "I'm aware of the stats and the other stat is we have conceded second least shots," said Lampard.

    "That helps to narrow down the issue. It's something we are aware of with our recruitment and on the pitch with the players to make sure we set up well.

    "We want to concede less, as do all teams at the moment."

    As Lampard referenced with recruitment, Chelsea hope the signing of Edouard Mendy for around £22million from Rennes can solve their goalkeeping issues.

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    CHELSEA RANK HIGHLY IN PREVENTING SHOTS

    Since Lampard took charge at the start of last season, Chelsea have conceded 89 goals in 62 games across all competitions, an average of 1.44 per game.

    Of the 17 sides who played in the Premier League last year and this year, that puts Chelsea in the bottom half (11th of 17).

    The best two records, by comparison, are held by the two Manchester clubs, with City (61 in 65) and United (63 in 67) both averaging 0.94 goals conceded per game. West Ham are the worst, with 1.58 (79 in 50 matches).

    But, as Lampard suggests, there is a significant difference when it comes to shots faced.

    Taking all competitions into account, the Blues have faced 590 shots across their 62 games, an average of 9.52 per game.

    That ranks third of the 17 teams, only narrowly behind Manchester City (7.34 shots per game) and Liverpool (9.46), with Leicester City (9.76) the only other team facing less than 10.

    Of the shots Chelsea have faced, 215 have been on target, an average of 3.47 per game which ranks fifth of 17. 

    So, Chelsea have been reasonably effective in limiting the shots they face and the attempts their keepers have to save.

    However, 15 per cent (89) of opposing teams' shots have resulted in a conceded goal and by that metric, Chelsea are worst of all 17 teams.

    The best is Arsenal (eight per cent) and Manchester United also rank in single figures (nine per cent), so it seems Lampard has a point that his goalkeeping is the primary concern.

    KEPA STATS MAKE ABYSMAL READING

    Delving deeper into Opta's advanced goalkeeper metrics, we can look at expected goals and how their keepers rank in the goals prevented statistic.

    Unfortunately, it makes abysmal reading for Kepa. 

    There were 43 shot-stoppers who played a Premier League game since Lampard took charge of Chelsea and Kepa ranks last in goals prevented differential.

    In his 36 league matches for Chelsea since Lampard took charge, Opta's expected goals system projects the Spaniard should have conceded 39.21 goals. The actual figure was 51, giving him a goals prevented ratio of minus 11.79.

    For context, the next worst of those who played at least 25 matches in that time period, were England duo Nick Pope (minus 4.31) and Jordan Pickford (minus 4.17).

    Caballero also has a negative differential (minus 3.73), conceding nine Premier League goals from his six matches when his expected figure was 5.27.

    The best goalkeeping performance in that time has come from Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris (plus 9.87 goals prevented), closely followed by Martin Dubravka (plus 8.57), Dean Henderson (plus 8.35) and Vicente Guaita (plus 7.97) – with those four ranking well clear of the rest.

    As a team, Chelsea have conceded 63 in the league since August 2019, while the expected figure is 44.74, their minus 18.26 differential being far and away the top-flight's worst.

    Southampton are next worst at minus 9.91, while the best record is held by Sheffield United, who conceded 46 when they were expected to concede 56.59, giving them a plus 10.59 ratio.

    The poor goalkeeping is highlighted further when looking at Chelsea and their big six rivals.

    Chelsea (44.74), City (44.34), Liverpool (44.67) and United (46.61) all rank similarly for the Premier League goals they would have been expected to concede since the start of last season.

    By contrast, Arsenal (62.73) and Tottenham (62.72) rank more poorly.

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    City (42) fared best, with Ederson (plus 4.47) ranking well, while Liverpool (46) United (48) finished up relatively close to their expected figures, all highlighting just how badly Chelsea have been let down between the sticks compared to their nearest competitors.

    Chelsea will hope Mendy, once fully fit and settled, can resolve their goalkeeping woes, as it is clear the data backs up Lampard's statement.

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    For the first time since 1985 there will be fewer than 21 stages, with just 18 in the 2020 race across a 2,882-kilometre route.

    Irun will host the start of the race for the time, while it was 1961 when La Vuelta last began in the Basque Country.

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    On the plus side, a Spanish rider has won a stage at every Vuelta apart from in 1996.

    THE CHALLENGE FACING ROGLIC

    Roglic is looking to defend his crown, but no rider as achieved that at this race since Roberto Heras' triumphs between 2003 and 2005. The Team Jumbo-Visma star also faces some stiff competition. 

    INEOS Grenadiers rider Froome is the last rider to have won multiple editions of La Vuelta, doing it so in 2011 and 2017 – the longest span between two wins among all riders with multiple titles. 

    He will now look to join Heras (four wins), Tony Rominger (three) and Contador (three) among the Vuelta greats.

    Valverde has finished on the Vuelta podium a remarkable seven times in 13 appearances (2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2019), the most of all time.

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    Mas finished second in his last outing in 2018, when he also finished as best young rider.

    The Movistar rider comes into the race with some form – he was fifth at the Tour and came second in the young riders classification behind only the yellow jersey winner Pogacar.

    Pinot has been in the top 10 in each of the two Vueltas he has managed to finish, though he has abandoned in a Grand Tour seven times, which is more often than he has reached the end (six).

    Dumoulin has been in the top 10 in each of the last five grand tours he finished, while Carapraz has two major top-five results to his name, though is yet to finish higher than 18th in Spain. 

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    WHERE EAGLES (DON'T) DARE

    Brighton out-shot Palace by 19 in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park, but it wasn't until the 90th minute through Alexis Mac Allister that they finally scored.

    Palace had been leading 1-0 since the 19th minute, when Wilfried Zaha converted a penalty won by Michy Batshuayi. Remarkably, that was their only shot in the entire match; since Opta began collecting such data back in 2003-04, no other team has gone through a whole Premier League game in which their solitary attempt was from the spot.

    Swansea City hold the Premier League record (at least since 2003-04) when it comes to the lowest number of shots for an entire season: they managed 339 in 2017-18. Palace, who have had 32 in their five games this term, might just have something to aim for – if aiming were their strong suit, anyway.

    IT'S GUNNER CHANGE ONE DAY

    Some degree of normality was restored at the Etihad Stadium, where Arsenal, who seem to love losing to Manchester City, lost to Manchester City.

    Raheem Sterling's goal gave the hosts a seventh win in a row in the league over the Gunners, who last lost as many in succession against the same opponent at the hands of Ipswich Town between 1974 and 1977. If they lose the return fixture, they'll equal a club record of eight consecutive top-flight defeats to the same team, having last done so to Leeds United from 1972 to 1976.

    The worst such run in England's top tier belongs to West Brom: they were beaten 15 times in a row by Chelsea from 1984 to 2011 before Gareth McAuley gave them a 1-0 win in March 2012.

     

    JACK'S HACKS

    Grealish might be struggling to win over England boss Gareth Southgate, but his opponents certainly seem to view him as a force to be reckoned with.

    In Aston Villa's 1-0 win at Leicester City, Grealish won five fouls – nobody was fouled more often – to take his tally to 182 since the start of last season. Unsurprisingly, that's the highest number in the division.

    According to Opta data, the most-fouled player in the Premier League since 2003-04 is former Bolton Wanderers striker Kevin Davies, who won 727 free-kicks. Grealish has some way to go before he can reckon with that figure, but at least he has double the number of England caps as Davies, who got one back in October 2010.

    RED-FACED REDS

    Conceding twice to Everton did more than sting Liverpool's local pride – it also took them to 13 goals conceded in five league games this season, the same number they let in after 15 matches in 2019-20. In fact, it's the most they have ever conceded in the first five league games of a season since shipping 13 back in 1953, when Winston Churchill was still prime minister of the United Kingdom.

    If their average of 2.6 goals against per game continues, they will end the season having conceded at least 98 times. That would set a new club record in terms of their worst defensive displays across a campaign, surpassing the 97 goals they let in back in, you guessed it, 1953-54. How they would have hoped for better news on Virgil van Dijk's injury.

    It could be worse, though: Manchester United conceded a quite spectacular 26 goals in the first five games of 1930-31, which remains a record in England's top flight. Churchill wasn't even in the government at the time.

     

    UNBELIEVABALE

    Spurs were cruising to a 3-0 victory when Bale came on against West Ham for his first appearance for the club in 2,707 days. What a moment for the fans watching at home.

    Of course, it was the West Ham faithful who will have been jumping for joy in their living rooms by the end of the game, with Fabian Balbuena, a Davinson Sanchez own goal and an utterly magical hit from Manuel Lanzini snatching the most dramatic of 3-3 draws. Bale had earlier missed a great chance to make it 4-2, for good measure.

    Still, welcoming back Bale after more than seven years will have been a special moment, although it doesn't quite match Wayne Rooney's Premier League record. His first appearance after rejoining Everton in 2017 came 4,837 days after his first in 2002, and he marked it by scoring the winner against Stoke City.

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