NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks eager to recapture pre-hiatus form

The Bucks left for Florida at less than full strength as starting point guard Eric Bledsoe and reserve guard Pat Connaughton tested positive for COVID-19.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.   -  Twitter

The Milwaukee Bucks believe it can build on the momentum it established while putting up the NBA’s best record before the pandemic-imposed hiatus - even if it has been months since it played a meaningful game.

Milwaukee is 53-12 and virtually assured of entering the post-season as the Eastern Conference’s top seed. The Bucks return from a four-month layoff on July 31 when it faces the Boston Celtics in Florida.

"I feel like we’re in a really, really good place right now as a team,” reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said.

“Our chemistry’s in a good place. Everybody’s having fun. Everybody’s smiling. Can we be better? Obviously, we can be better. I feel like day by day, game by game, this team will get better.”

NBA Restart: Pandemic Basketball begins, with some comforts of home  

Antetokounmpo said in April that he didn’t have access to a hoop while under quarantine. He now said he was just kidding when he made that comment.

"Anybody out there that thinks I didn’t have access to a gym, they don’t really know me,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just said that to try to get a little bit ahead of the competition.”

The Bucks left for Florida at less than full strength as starting point guard Eric Bledsoe and reserve guard Pat Connaughton tested positive for the coronavirus.

Coach Mike Budenholzer has been cautiously optimistic that both will be ready when games begin, and the Bucks tweeted out a video on Wednesday night indicating Bledsoe had arrived.

If the Bucks stay healthy, it has all the pieces to contend for its first NBA title since 1971. The team has built a deep roster around Antetokounmpo and has been playing elite defence all season.

Giannis admits he had access to hoop during NBA's hiatus  

"We have a complete team,” All-Star forward Khris Middleton said. “We have one great superstar and the MVP of this league who leads for us, and from everywhere else we’ve got guys who play their role, play hard and play for one another. I think that’s what’s most important on a team, to have all guys buy into their role and play for one another.”

- Where we were -

Milwaukee Bucks was on a three-game skid when the NBA halted play, marking the first time all season it lost consecutive games. Antetokounmpo missed two of those games with a sprained left knee but says he is healthy now.

-Depth update-

The biggest questions surround the availability of Bledsoe and Connaughton. Bledsoe is averaging 15.4 points, 5.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds. Connaughton provides quality 3-point shooting and athleticism off the bench.

-MVP case complete-

Antetokounmpo won’t get a chance to strengthen his case for a second straight MVP during eight seeding games. The NBA sais seeding games shouldn’t be taken into consideration for any individual awards.

Antetokounmpo and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James are the two leading MVP candidates. Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

-Lopez twins feel at home-

The NBA bubble has been a sort of homecoming for Bucks centres and Disney enthusiasts Brook and Robin Lopez. Brook Lopez has used his Walt Disney World expertise to make restaurant recommendations for Budenholzer.

"It’s a huge responsibility, but I looked at it like going out to make Bud proud when I’m on the court,” Lopez said. “I tried to do the same thing with this list. It was a little tough for me to keep it curated and tight enough for him.”

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