Antetokounmpo, Bucks aim to find dominance again in NBA bubble

NBA basketball is back. And so are the Milwaukee Bucks.

To decide seeding in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks will play eight games from the NBA bubble before the postseason begins. It all starts Friday evening with a matchup against Boston.

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Currently holding the top seed in the East with a 53-12 record, Milwaukee’s magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed sits at two. The Bucks hope they can continue the same dominance they held over opponents before the season put on hold in March.

The Bucks won 34 of 39 games against the East, their only losses coming against Miami (twice), Boston, Philadelphia and Indiana. Since the 1970-71 season, only the record-setting 2015-16 Golden State Warriors have posting a better winning percentage in conference games (.885) than Milwaukee in 2019-20 (.872).

Milwaukee’s point differential of +11.3 was also making history. Only four teams in NBA history have posted a better differential – 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (12.3), 1970-71 Bucks (12.3), 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (12.2) and the 2016-17 Warriors (11.6).

Of course, none of this would be possible without reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak logged 17 games with 30+ points and 15+ rebounds, the most since Shaquille O’Neal had 17 for the Lakers in 1999-00. Hall of Fame center Moses Malone did it a record 26 times in 1981-82 for Houston.

Records and statistics aside, it’ll be great to watch Antetokounmpo and the Bucks suit up Friday night. “Bucks Live” begins at 4:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Wisconsin.

Other notes:

— Jayson Tatum, who was establishing himself as Boston’s go-to guy before the season was shut down, ranked fifth among NBA players with a scoring average of 29.2 points per contest in February and March.

— Tatum (23.6), Kemba Walker (21.2) and Jaylen Brown (20.4) are all averaging more than 20 points per game. If that holds up, Boston would become the third Eastern Conference team to finish a season with three players posting 20+ points per contest. In 1983-84, Philadelphia achieved the feat with Moses Malone (22.7), Juluis Erving (22.4) and Andrew Toney (20.4).

— Celtics starters are responsible for 76% of the Celtics’ points in 2019-20, which ranks third in the league. Portland leads the way at 76.7%.