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Early favorites

The Bucks finally lost, and while they fought until the end, it was clear after the first quarter that the Hawks had their number the other day. After a solid start in which they led the hosts by 11 markers, they could do no better than post 22, 22, and 18 in the last three periods to ultimately lose by 19. It was, for all intents, not a performance longtime National Basketball Association habitues expected of them — not after they blitzed to a perfect 9-0 slate to start the season, and not with All-Star Trae Young sidelined and unable to give them fits.

Not that the Bucks are complaining. For one thing, all streaks have to end some time or another, and it was, perhaps, better for them to ease up on the pedal early on instead of peak too soon. For another, they made their run without vital cog Khris Middleton, still recovering from surgery to repair ligament damage in his left wrist. In other words, they knew heading into their road contest that they were handicapped, and that the outstanding play of perennial Most Valuable Player contender Giannis Antetokounmpo could only carry them for so long.

That said, there can be no doubting that the Bucks stamped their class in crafting their winning skein; if nothing else, they claimed matches they were favored in, not quite as easy a task as it sounds in a league where anything can happen — and everything has happened — in a given outing. And, needless to say, Antetokounmpo is the fulcrum on offense. The competition should be grateful he still hasn’t developed an outside game; else, he would be totally unstoppable. Meanwhile, he anchors a defense that allows the least number of points in the league.

How the Bucks will fare given the parity in the Eastern Conference remains to be seen. As good as they already are, they need no small measure of good fortune to stay complete. Should their roster remain healthy, though, they’re rightfully tagged the favorites — not just because of Antetokounmpo, but especially because of Antetokounmpo.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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