The NBA has plenty of elite teams, but not all others are actually generating much concern from their counterparts and the fans. Oftentimes, teams get a couple of chances, and if they keep failing, that respect will start to dwindle. Regardless of how good they are in the regular season, most will just yawn more than anything.
The Milwaukee Bucks arguably have one foot inside that category. Yes, they are still a force, without a doubt, and currently a top contender in the Eastern Conference’s possibly three-man race, right behind the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. In fact, they have the best stretch in the league now as they are winners in 11 of their 12 games.
It’s just that the stink from what happened in their last two playoff trips hasn’t worn off. The shortcomings reeked of unpreparedness.
It’s still very recent, but it’ll be hard to forget how the Bucks shockingly faded in the 2019 and 2020 playoffs, when they were fresh-off strong showings in the regular season on both occasions.
Here’s a quick refresher:
In 2019, they lost to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, 4-2. They dropped four-straight games after going up, two-zip. The Bucks were actually 10-1 in the playoffs prior to suffering the backdoor sweep.
In 2020, they were upset by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, 4-1. It could’ve easily been a sweep as they barely won that lone victory.
“Strong” might be an understatement too. Keep in mind how dominant the Bucks were prior to getting eliminated. They had the best record in the league in those two seasons (56-17 last year and 60-22 the year before), as well as the number one-ranked offense, defense, and net rating. Oh, and Giannis Antetokounmpo was the league’s Most Valuable Player each time, and was also the Defensive Player of the Year in the latter season.
Is the third time the charm, or will things be more of the same?
This is the Bucks’ third year as a serious title contender. Fans will probably just cling on to thinking that “third time’s the charm,” which can be actually encouraging when you factor in that the recent failures ultimately helped them mature.
The much-deserved doubts from the media and the fans will be there, but at least they know that they now have a better two-way point guard in Jrue Holiday, a definite upgrade over Eric Bledsoe. Then, just this past week, they added more playoff experience and tenacity by acquiring ‘3 and D’ forward, PJ Tucker.
Holiday and Tucker are good additions for a title contender. We’ll see if Giannis, Khris Middleton, and head coach Mike Budenholzer mesh all of those things together.
The Bucks will battle the Indiana Pacers next. They’ll meet tomorrow, Tuesday, at 9 AM, Manila time.