The Milwaukee Bucks are tearing through the NBA at a pace that has never been seen in league history. As the Bucks came from behind on the road to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night, Milwaukee pushed its winning streak to 17 consecutive games while maintaining what is currently the biggest scoring margin the NBA has ever seen.
The Bucks were the best regular season team in the NBA last year, winning 60 games and finishing with an average point differential of +8.8. They are even better this season. Milwaukee is on pace for 73 wins and is sporting a +13.4 average point differential, which would blow the NBA record out of the water.
Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is also better than ever this season. Milwaukee’s supporting cast has maintained its excellence thus far even without departed guard Malcolm Brogdon, who was traded to the Pacers for draft picks during the summer. The Bucks haven’t lost since Nov. 8, and they are showing no signs of stopping now.
This is everything you need to know about the surging Bucks and a winning streak that is reaching historic heights.
The Bucks’ winning streak is in historic company
With 17 straight wins, only 11 teams in NBA history have had longer single-season winning streaks than the one Milwaukee is currently riding. When the Bucks push their winning streak to 18 with a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night, only eight single-season streaks in league history will be longer.
Despite the Bucks’ current greatness, this is not the longest winning streak in franchise history. That number sits at 20 straight, set by the 1970-71 team that won 66 regular season games and claimed the NBA championship behind Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson.
The Bucks are winning at an all-time margin
The biggest average point differential in league history was set by the 1971-72 Lakers at +12.3. Then comes the aforementioned 1970-71 Milwaukee team, who finished fractions of a point lower. Michael Jordan’s record-setting 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are third with an average point differential of +12.2.
All three of those teams won the NBA championship. The Bucks are currently playing at a pace that is +1.2 above the league record.
The Bucks are balanced
Milwaukee is the only team in the NBA that currently in the top three of both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Bucks are third in the NBA in offensive rating (behind the Mavericks and Rockets) by scoring 114.1 points per 100 possessions. Milwaukee is No. 1 in defensive efficiency, allowing only 101.3 points per 100 possessions.
The Lakers — Milwaukee’s powerful counterpart in the Western Conference — are the only other team in the NBA to be top-five in both categories.
Giannis is making a strong case that he’s the best player in the world right now. A year after winning MVP and finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year, Antetokounmpo is raising his game to an even higher level.
As the Bucks beat Memphis on Friday night, Antetokounmpo finished with 37 points and 11 rebounds in only 27 minutes. Putting up huge numbers without playing huge minutes has been the theme of Giannis’ season. He’s currently averaging only 31.4 minutes per game, which ranks tied for No. 63 in the NBA. Last year, Antetokounmpo played an average of 32.8 minutes per game.
Giannis is scoring more than ever, raising his points per 100 possessions from 39.3 a year ago to 45.2. While his true shooting percentage has fallen a few points, his efficiency is still elite with a true shooting of 61.6 percent. The biggest increase in his game has come as a three-point shooter. Giannis is taking 24.7 percent of his shots from behind the arc (up from 16.3 percent last year) and he’s making them at a 32.5 percent clip (up from 25.6 percent last year).
The Bucks have had a relatively easy schedule during the streak
Of the Bucks’ 17 straight wins, only three have come against teams that currently have winning records. Two of those three wins were blowouts. The Bucks’ beat the Pacers by 19 points for their third win in the streak, and blasted the Los Angeles Clippers by 28 points with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the game.
Milwaukee’s two closest calls in the streak were a two-point win over the Oklahoma City Thunder and a four-point win over the Utah Jazz.
Milwaukee faces several real tests the rest of the month
The Bucks’ first big test comes on Monday against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. If they win that game, the Bucks will have a showdown looming with the Lakers on Thursday in Milwaukee.
There’s also a Christmas day game against the Philadelphia 76ers on the road in a matchup many picked for the Eastern Conference Finals in the preseason.
The Bucks are an incredibly good team by any measure. If they can beat the Lakers and Sixers, it will be time to crown them the championship front-runners.