In sports, you get only so many opportunities. The Milwaukee Bucks had a GOLDEN opportunity this season, to do something they haven’t since the 70’s; Make and possibly win an NBA Finals. Those hopes were dashed after suffering a dastardly sweep (Winning the first two games and losing the next four) by Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, in the Eastern Conference Finals. Pain.
Everything was trending the Bucks’ way. Net rating, efficiency, offensive and defensive rankings, three-point shooting percentage, homecourt advantage THROUGHOUT the playoffs. The Bucks ran through the Detriot Pistons, handed a Gentleman’s Sweep to the Boston Celtics, and were dominant in the first two games of the Eastern Finals. It was all there, until it wasn’t.
The Raptors got what the rest of the league hoped for; an off series for Bucks shooters. The blueprint of attempting to stop Giannis and the Bucks is no secret. You want to wall Giannis off from the paint and force him to kick it out to open shooters… and hope they miss. In the regular season, the Bucks made 35% of their three pointers, in the Eastern Finals they only made 32%. Make three percent more of your threes and it’s the Bucks in the Finals. But that wasn’t meant to be. Pain.
The Raptors are to be commended. (Not for celebrating Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury in Game 5. That was just disgusting.) They sustained that wall against Giannis for the entire series. (Something Boston was only able to do for one game.) They made him kick the ball out and got the misses they were hoping for. So much so, it frustrated Giannis for the first time all season. Giannis began forcing the issue and in the process, made poor decisions. Played right into Toronto’s hands. Pain.
Now the off-season and difficult decisions await the Bucks. Not that they wouldn’t have at the conclusion of the Finals, but they are here much sooner than anyone wanted them to be. Something else that comes along with this opportunity lost? Reflection. Some guys aren’t going to like what they see on tape from this series. Some guys are already feeling the sting of this as they watch the NBA Finals instead of playing in them. If they can even watch them. (It’s been hard for me.)
If it’s one thing I know about this team, is their will to get better. Come back stronger from having to endure pain. A lost opportunity. Painful, but not a killer. It will not extinguish the fire and desire this team has to be champions. Yes, it’s a lost opportunity, but the good thing about life is you can make your own opportunity. Something tells me the Bucks will do just that.