The Milwaukee Bucks have really taken a step back without their star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, which has left some asking just how well they can do without the Greek Freak.

Even with Damian Lillard on the court, the Bucks have been seriously feeling his absence in the Pacers series, especially with how Pascal Siakam has been torching them from the mid-range.

Come with us as we take a deep dive into the Bucks’ 2024 NBA playoff run, and how the team may be able to keep their heads above water while waiting for their superstar.

How the Team has Been Fairing so Far Without Giannis

While the Milwaukee Bucks haven’t been floundering against the Pacers in round one of the playoffs, they have been giving up far too many easy baskets. The offensive side of the ball has been great, but the rebounding and defence, specifically in the mid-range, have been lacking.

However, it’s not all bad; with Giannis not in the picture, Damian Lillard has really stepped up his game, averaging 34.5 points per night in the series so far. As most fans expected, playoff Dame seems ready to go.

Additionally, Khris Middleton has been playing decently, averaging 19 points and 7.5 rebounds, while Brook Lopez has also been putting up some above-average numbers.

The only problem is that Milwaukee seems sluggish in transition, losing out to the much faster Pacers. Again, Pascal Siakam comes to mind, as he has been averaging a crazy 36.5 points per game so far.

That’s all to say, the Bucks are definitely keeping their head above water without Giannis on the floor but could be doing much better. The Bucks just have to hope they can make it out of the first round and get him back, as with his gravity on the floor, they should be poised for a deep playoff run.

Antetokounmpo’s Return Date

Antetokounmpo is still set to be out for the next several games with a calf strain, but he’s expected to return for the next round of the playoffs at the latest. As of now, he’s doing stationary jump shots but still can’t run well or make any hard cuts.

Can the Bucks and Damian Lillard Survive This Series Without Antetokounmpo?

Even without their main star, the Bucks should have no problem making it to the second round of the playoffs. Yes, it may not be pretty, and yes, it will likely take at least six long games, but the Bucks have a roster that is strong enough to pull through.

Here are some key areas to look at:

Rise of Dame Time 

Damian Lillard’s first two games have really shown us that he is still “Big Game Dame” and isn’t to be messed with. He’s a proven scorer, bringing teams from deep, and with Giannis out, the offence will naturally flow through him. 

We half expect Coach Doc Rivers to design plays maximizing Lillard’s strengths, creating scoring opportunities and drawing fouls. And lastly, his leadership and clutch gene will be crucial down the stretch.

Middleton Steps Up

Khris Middleton has been a consistent force for the Bucks for years now, although he has recently taken a step back in terms of his overall production. However, while Giannis is out, his defensive presence will be huge. As Dame isn’t a defensive player, Middleton will need to carry the perimeter defence. 

The Lopez Lock on Siakam

Brook Lopez’s defensive presence in the paint is invaluable, as it has been over the last several years, and will continue to be a focal point. As we’ve seen over the last several games, Pascal Siakam has become a key offensive weapon for the Pacers, but hopefully, Lopez can disrupt his rhythm.

Lopez’s size and shot-blocking ability can potentially force Siakam to take tougher shots and limit his scoring in the paint and, hopefully, from mid-range.

Bobby Portis The Spark Plug

Bobby Portis has always been known for his energy and ability to get hot from three when it’s really needed. Even if he doesn’t consistently score 20 points a night, having one or two games where he explodes can be a real game-changer in a seven-game series. His hustle and rebounding will also be key, especially with Giannis out, as the Bucks have been really feeling it on the boards.

Lastly, if Portis can consistently contribute double-doubles and hit timely threes, it will relieve a lot of pressure on Lillard and Middleton.

2024 NBA Playoff Outlook for the Bucks?

As long as Milwaukee finds a way to beat the Pacers, they should be a good fit for at least the Eastern Conference Finals. With the duo of Damian Lillard and Giannis firing on all cylinders, very few teams in the NBA can even hold a candle to them.

Think about it – if Dame is dropping 30, Giannis is dropping 30, and Khris, Lopez, and Portis combine for 40, there’s really nobody in the league who can stop them. Moreover, once Giannis returns he will patch quite a few holes in their defence, further making a point that the 2024 Bucks were built for the playoffs.

We also shouldn’t forget that it will be great for the team’s overall morale if they manage to take out a strong team like the Pacers without their number-one star. Just look at the Bucks in years past, they’ve been able to surmount some huge obstacles in the postseason, returning stronger every time.

More analytics on NBA: