There is something about this team, these young Bucks, that is very different than it was earlier this season. It would be easy to bemoan the fact that Jabari Parker is injured again and fans can chalk up the season to another wasted year, but these Bucks are proving all doubters wrong. Going into the top seeded teams arena and beating them on their court speaks volumes about the Bucks and how cohesive they are as a unit right now. There is no need to rely on one player’s ability to dominate games, just the need to play good, smart basketball.
The 103-100 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night was exciting on multiple fronts. First, of showed that the Bucks can hang with the Eastern Conference’s elite teams. Second, and more importantly, it’s giving the team confidence heading into the playoffs. Getting into the second round of the playoffs is no longer a fantasy, it’s quite possible with this current squad. Malcolm Brogdon is playing exceptionally well and is making a late surge for rookie of the year. He has quietly put together a very respectable year while also showing off his maturity late in the season. Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been doing their best to handle the scoring loads. When one of them is faltering Greg Monroe has proven his value by coming off of the bench and providing an interior scoring spark. This team is better than the “fear the deer” version of the Bucks from years ago, but that’s mostly because this team isn’t led by low-percentage jump shooters who think they’re better than they actually are.
Could this team, without Parker, beat the Washington Wizards or the Toronto Raptors in a 7 game series? Absolutely. Would they be able to push Boston to their limit in a 7 game series? On their best week they can hang with Boston punch for punch. The issues will come for the Bucks when their punches stop landing. The Bucks aren’t built to withstand a cold streak from Giannis, and if he goes cold the team will struggle to put up enough points to win a game. As Giannis goes, the team will go. The upside of that is that the all-star has proven himself capable of handling the stress of a team being put on his back, but for how long would he be able to carry it?
At this point whether the Bucks secure the fifth or sixth seed, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Whether they play the Wizards or the Raptors, they will need to play well, but not perfectly, to advance. What the Bucks don’t want to do is fall into a slump and drop in the standings back into the seventh or eighth seeds. Those seeds are matched up with Boston and Cleveland and nobody wants to play them right now.
Here’s the checklist: 1. Finish off the year strong and secure the fifth seed. 2. Go into the playoffs and knock off your first round opponent in six games. 3. Give the next team hell.