This time last year, the Milwaukee Bucks backed into the playoffs, with no real momentum. Yes, they were 44-38 and had finally gotten rid of the incompetence at the head coaching spot. Problem is, ineptitude remained at the interim head coaching spot.
Although Bucks fans everywhere remained hopeful in the 2 vs 7 first round matchup against an injured Celtics team, they knew deep down the outcome would not fall in Milwaukee’s favor. (Or at least I did.) Bucks went down in seven games.
Bucks cleaned house of the dead weight coaching, hired head coach Mike Budenholzer, and added Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova. Much needed changes to a roster that had talent but no real direction.
I’ve said on Home Court Sports this roster was good enough to win fifty plus games, but could win 60 with Budenholzer. (My esteemed colleague, Professor P, wasn’t quite on board.) Why did I say this?
Budenholzer is an actual coach. Coaches during games, makes adjustments, has a handle on rotations, has a system both offensively and defensively that are applicable to today’s NBA (Hence their 4th ranked offensive rating and their 1st ranked defensive rating.), and knows how to get the best out of his players.
After the regular season dust settled, the Bucks were 60-22. Their first 60 win season since the 1980-81 season when Milwaukee also went 60-22. Also, the only team to win 60 games, securing homecourt throughout the playoffs. That’s right folks, if (or when) the Bucks make the NBA Finals, games 1-2-5*-7* will be at Fiserv Forum. (*If necessary. I’ve always wanted to do that.)
The Bucks have to make it that far, first. It’s no secret Milwaukee hasn’t won a playoff series since that amazing run in 2001, that ended in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s part of the reason why the doubters continue to doubt. It’s also the only argument they have left. The Bucks have an opportunity to silence them once and for all by winning their first round matchup against the Detroit Pistons. (A team with an ailing Blake Griffin.)
The regular season was far beyond anything I’ve experienced in my 33 years of following this team. But that was the regular season, this is the Playoffs. A totally different animal. Which is why the Bucks must become a different animal. Ratchet up the intensity, but also do what got you to the dance. Don’t get outside of yourself and know what’s at stake.
This is the kind of team I envisioned with Giannis as the superstar. This is the kind of team that is undeniable. (Although many STILL try.) This is a team the rest of the league needs to fear. The NBA Playoffs are here. This isn’t your same old “Chase the 8” Bucks, this is a quest for The O’Brien. Fear The Deer SZN is officially here.