The Hoop Collective: Are Bucks playing championship-caliber basketball?

Giannis Antetokounmpo (center) and the Milwaukee Bucks are on the heels of the Boston Celtics for the East's best record, as of Feb. 7. Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Brian Windhorst and a team of ESPN's Insiders sort out life and the news from in and around the NBA world, including the Dallas Mavericks' Kyrie Irving experiment, the Denver Nuggets' win-now plans and what it's like to be in an NBA front office during the trade deadline.

There are little fires everywhere in the NBA at the moment. And there's a locomotive that's quietly gaining steam.

Last Thursday, the Milwaukee Bucks put on a performance that should've been labeled as a warning shot toward the rest of the league.

They put a vice grip on Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the recently hot LA Clippers in holding them scoreless for the last four minutes of a game they won by a point after being down by as many as 21. Leonard and George combined to miss all eight shot attempts down the stretch.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was at the peak of his powers that night, scoring 54 points with 19 rebounds.

Then Saturday, as the Bucks won their seventh consecutive game when Antetokounmpo assembled a triple-double, Khris Middleton looked like himself for the first time this injury-plagued season with 24 points.