On the final night of the season, Bucks were blown out in Philly, but wind up in the most attractive playoff matchup after Heat beat Raptors and put Bucks in the 7th spot to face the 2nd seed Celtics. That was as wild of a final night in the National Basketball Association as I can remember.
Another added bonus came on Friday as the Bucks lost the tiebreaker coin flip but that means they will keep their 2018 first round draft pick as part of the conditions on the pick sent to Phoenix for the Eric Bledsoe trade.
By all accounts, the most desirable outcome occurred, something Bucks fans are not used to.
The Bucks season was another roller coaster ride of a season for fans to endure. Organizational goals of 50 wins and Top 5 defense were eventually cast aside as Bucks found themselves just trying to make it to the finish line.
Joe Prunty was left to steer the speedboat that is the Bucks after head coach Jason Kidd (23-22) was tossed overboard in January after wearing down his players, his fans and the Bucks franchise. A pre-All Star break honeymoon was short lived as the Bucks were never able to find any consistency with their defense. But, Joe Prunty still finished with a 21-16 record at the helm giving the Bucks a 44 win season and the highest win total since the 2009-10 Fear The Deer Season.
Speaking of Fear The Deer, the Bucks brought back a friendly face (for most) in Bucks urban legend by signing Brandon Jennings on March 11, after a G-League stint with the Herd to fortify the point guard position after injuries to Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellevedova left their back court short of ball handlers.
While his final numbers are quite pedestrian, 5.3pts/3.1asts, in 14mpg, he has played the role he was signed for. To give Bledsoe a break, push the ball and be more floor general than trigger happy. Whether he gets much run in the postseason is yet to be determined with the return of Brogdon & Delly.
Bledsoe has hit his stride since the All Star break by averaging 18.8pts/6asts/4.4rebs and is shooting 51/40/81 from the field. If the Bucks are going to win this series, I believe it is Eric Bledsoe who will need to be the Bucks second best player. Terry Rozier, coming back from an ankle injury, will be tasked to try to guard Bledsoe, but this is a matchup he needs to dominate.
I don't know which Khris Middleton will show up and he'll have a much harder job with Celtics still healthy young wing tandem of Brown/Tatum to match up against. Khris has typically fallen short in bigger moments. Last year in the playoffs vs the Raptors he seemed to run out of gas (and was reportedly sick with flu), but only put up 14.5pts/5.3asts/4.7rebs on 39% shooting. The Bucks will need more from him this year as he's played all 82 games and boasted his career best numbers of 20pts/4ast/5rebs.
Jabari Parker is healthy and will experience the first playoffs of his career. Jabari will continue to come off the bench to provide more of a scoring punch for the 2nd unit and be an X-factor in that role. As questions swirl about how to handle his pending restricted free agency, hopefully some answers are provided in this playoff series to help guide that decision this summer. I believe and I hope the Bucks will come to an agreement and Jabari will remain a Buck.
Malcolm Brogdon has returned from a 2 month absence due to a left quad injury and came off the bench vs Orlando and Philly. In the final game vs Sixers he had 13pts/2ast/2rebs and 3-5 from three. Bucks may still start Tony Snell because of his defensive ability, but he will have a very short leash. Brogdon's ball handling will be a significant asset to this team in the playoffs as well as for Bledsoe and Giannis specifically. His calming demeanor and outside shooting will be welcomed to a team that has struggled in those areas.
The Celtics, even with their injuries, finished the season with the top defense in the league.
But, take a look at Giannis splits across the league this season and you'll find his second best team scoring average vs the Celtics with numbers of 33.5 pts/10.8 rebs/5asts in 4 games. The Celtics will throw Brown, Tatum, Morris, Baynes, and Horford at Giannis to attempt to slow him down, but they have had little success in being able to do so.
I don't think Giannis is going to let the Bucks lose this series.
Brad Stevens remains the boy wonder of the NBA coaching ranks and Joe Prunty is not that. Mild talent discrepancies can be overcome by much better coaching and scheming. But, the talent advantage Giannis, Bledsoe, Middleton and Jabari provide will be tougher to beat out in a 7 game series. I'm not just saying 'Bucks in Six' because of it's hopeful mantra that Brandon Jennings provided in the 2013 playoff series of Bucks vs Heat. I'm saying it because I think the Bucks are the better team that should and will win the series.
Take the regular season out of everything that happened and just think about this upcoming series for the next two weeks. I've talked about the dysfunction that exists in the front office long enough and all fans understand the gravity of the offseason ahead. Coaching hire. Jabari Parker extension. Finding a center. None of that really matters right now in this moment.
"It Just Doesn't Matter"
Bucks have a healthy roster and a full availability of players. They are down in a foxhole and these are the guys they are going to battle with. As the Bucks look to extend the basketball season and life of the Bradley Center, I'm going to suggest that fans buy in for a minute to see if something special will happen. This series provides a great opportunity for the Bucks to win their first playoff series since 2001 and go into the new arena with a fresh slate.
I'll be there at the Bradley Center and hope you are too.
It's time to fulfill the destiny of Bucks in Six. For The Fans.