NBA PLAYOFFS: FEAR THE DEER?

Alright, let’s get this out of the way; the NBA Bubble has been weird. It isn’t the: lack of a crowd, the pumped in crowd noise, the virtual fans, the virtual logos, or the fact these athletes are living the college life all over again. It’s the: Phoenix Suns going 8-0 in the seeding games (only to miss the play-in game), the Portland Trail Blazers, powered by Damian Lillard, getting hot and grabbing the 8th seed in the West from the Memphis Grizzlies. Then there’s the Milwaukee Bucks going 3-5 in seeding games.

Yup, you heard me correctly, but it didn’t stop there. The Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers both lost their first playoff game. The first time both 1 seeds lost their first playoff game since 2003. In the case of the Bucks, it was poor defense. This would be shocking, except it’s been occurring long before the NBA Restart.

Many moons ago (okay, back in March), the Bucks found themselves on a three-game skid. The defensive rotations were routinely missed, teams were lighting them up from three, and there were truck lanes to the cup on a regular basis. Safe to say this was NOT the Bucks we’d become accustomed to seeing on the defensive end.

Game 1 of Milwaukee’s series versus the Orlando Magic, was riddled with missed shots, in addition to the poor defense. Game 2 was a turnaround for the offense (Except if your name is Khris Middleton. Woof.), but the defense was still not quite there for me. Yes, the Bucks won that game 111-96, but they left Magic shooters wide the hell open. They’re lucky they missed those shots. (Magic shot 7-33 from three and just 34.8 percent overall. Yuck.)

Game 3 finally saw the Bucks look like… well, the Bucks. In a 121-107 victory, that saw them take a 2-1 series lead, both ends of the floor were dominated by Milwaukee. Giannis couldn’t miss, going 12-for-14 from the field, Middleton bounced back from a 1-for-8 performance in Game 2, and the defense seemed to have gotten its swagger back. It’s the most the Bucks have looked like their normal selves in 13 games.

Is Game 3 the beginning of the Bucks getting back to consistent excellence? Or are they going to succumb to the weirdness that is the bubble? Game 4 will be telling. Only consistency will bring about a reason to Fear the Deer.

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