Milwaukee Bucks: Dame Time has finally arrived as Bucks begin to hit their stride

Portland Trail Blazers v Milwaukee Bucks
Portland Trail Blazers v Milwaukee Bucks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Damian Lillard is finally beginning to play like Damian Lillard as the Milwaukee Bucks begin to hit their stride.

Through the first nine games of the season, nine games of the season, there were some concerns that the Milwaukee Bucks had overvalued the impact of adding Damian Lillard and undervalued the cost of losing Jrue Holiday. The Bucks were 5-4 and were struggling mightily to find an identity with their retooled roster.

However, in the last eight games, it seems as if something has begun to click for the Bucks. Milwaukee is 7-1 during that stretch and, perhaps more importantly, Lillard is beginning to look more and more like himself.

During the eight games played, Lillard was averaging 23 points and five assists on 37 percent shooting from the field and 27 percent shooting from 3-point range. Lillard has never been known for being an inefficient volume scorer, so it was a curious start to the season.

However, it seems that he is beginning to find his footing with the Bucks. In his last seven games, Lillard is averaging 29 points and eight assists on 45 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting from 3-point range.

From all indications, it seems like the awkward phase of getting to know each other is close to over for Lillard and the Bucks. And what the Bucks have to be most encouraged about is that not only is Lillard being more productive and efficient, but the team is also winning at a higher pace.

In the last eight games specifically, the Bucks have the third-best offense and a top 10 defense. Considering there was one point this season where Milwaukee had the league's worst defense, these are all encouraging signs.

The Milwaukee Bucks are beginning to look like a contender

The Bucks are getting better and there is tangible evidence of that. And it likely starts with Lillard. There was never a guarantee that this experiment was going to work out perfectly for the Bucks, nor that the acquisition of Lillard alone would automatically equate to a championship. There was always going to be a risk with this type of move.

However, it is a good sign that the Bucks are beginning to play like a true championship contender in the Eastern Conference.

The scary part of the Bucks already shaking off their early season rust is the fact that the team has yet to completely unleash Khris Middleton. Smartly bringing him along slowly, Middleton is still only playing a small role for the Bucks (averaging less than 20 minutes per game).

There's a good chance that we haven't even seen the best version of the Bucks yet. Looking at the way the Bucks have operated so far this season, that's probably on purpose.

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The way the Bucks are bringing along Middleton slowly, the hope is that this is a team that peaks around May and June. If that does happen, and they can avoid the big injury, the Bucks will be in a great position to win a championship. And now that Lillard is finally playing like himself again, who is going to count out the Bucks