Who Do You Want the Bucks to Play in the First Round?
“First things first!” says the incredulous person in the Facebook comments of this story, likes piling up. “Focus on one game at a time, focus on making the playoffs, before worrying about who you will play!” he/she goes on, and not unrightfully so.
Well. Be assured that the players and coaches are in lockstep focusing on just those things. Jason Kidd after the Bulls loss: “We don’t listen to outside opinions.”
Nonetheless, this strong run by Milwaukee – coinciding with freefalls by the Hawks, Pacers, Pistons and Bulls – has the Bucks in prime position for a spot. Time to evaluate playoff scenario pros and cons. (My preferences ranked in order here.)
Bring on LeBron.
The defending champs brought out the best in the Bucks during the comeback-turned-blowout win back in November. Milwaukee played so well against Cleveland (relative to how well they played against other teams, supposedly) that it reportedly rankled LeBron a bit. Kyrie Irving took their defeat personally, not-so-subtly implying a sweep by saying “it would be great to go four games against them.” Even in losses, the Bucks have been competitive, dropping a game in overtime and two others by single-digits.
And losing in the playoffs to the best in the East (and to the best player since Jordan) would give Giannis and company some experience and perspective on what it takes (and how far away they are). From a fan perspective, this is also an opportunity to watch an all-time great, still in his prime, in the playoffs. And (hypothetically is all), beating the Cavaliers in the First Round would be historical.
Maybe don’t bring on LeBron.
Playing against LeBron may sound enticing in theory (Bucks in six), but it can be deflating in reality (Heat in four). This is the one potential series which would give the Bucks no realistic chance of winning, and the most likely series to last only four or five games. That is a bummer.
The Celtics play in the Garden and their best player is 5’9” and these things are fun.
Oddly, the Bucks have only played the Celtics once so far this season – a 112-108 overtime Boston win in Milwaukee in late-January, a couple weeks before the Bucks started winning all the time. That game was fun. Isaiah Thomas (who put up 37 in that game) is fun, even as far as stars go. Games at the Garden in the playoffs are fun. Perhaps more games would be fun? The Celtics are very good, but they are not unbeatably good like the Cavaliers.
Hmm. The Celtics might be a team made for the playoffs and made to beat the Bucks. That is less fun.
The Celtics take care of the ball rather well (eighth-best turnover percentage), shoot a ton of threes (third in makes and attempts), are one of the best fourth quarter teams in the league (eighth in Net Rating in the league), and have one of the finest coaches in the game (Brad Stevens). These things would seemingly make them a tough playoff matchup for any team, with the first couple making them an especially tough draw for the Bucks.
The Wizards are always mad at everyone this year and that includes the Bucks.
You may recall the Wizards not taking too kindly to the Bucks keeping Giannis in the game in the fourth quarter of a blowout home win. That was the night Giannis almost hit 40 for the first time but missed a free throw late. John Wall in particular took offense: “We felt like they whooped us badly… but also you’re just up 20 or 30 points, keeping your star player in trying to get his numbers, we kind of didn’t like that. We took that personal.” For the record, the Bucks did have Giannis on the court in the fourth quarter of the blowout, though he came out with more than six minutes to play.
Anyway, these are the same Wizards who wore all black to a game against the Celtics this year, with Wall clarifying that it was a “funeral.” They like to get worked up about things! And to think, that was all just the regular season. The Wizards make enjoyable theater.
The Wizards are the Wizards. They aren’t even the Bullets. They are just the Wizards.
Granted, John Wall is entertaining as hell. But are you jazzed about watching Markieff Morris and Jason Smith run around for two weeks?
Plus, the Wizards won three straight against the Bucks after they got all annoyed about being blown out, and they are one of the few teams with a better record than the Bucks since the start of February. If the Bucks are going to lose in the First Round (and the odds will say they will), losing in the first round to the Wizards would seem to be the least satisfying way to go.
Toronto is not Toronto (for now anyway) and that is good for Milwaukee because Toronto is good.
The Raptors were 30-19 before February. They are 14-10 since February. Kyle Lowry was having the best season of his career, but roughly a month ago he injured his right wrist, which required surgery. He is expected to be back before the playoffs, but working your best player back from a significant injury right before the playoffs is not ideal.
The Raptors have kind of given it to the Bucks this season. Maybe not the best matchup.
Toronto is 3-1 against Milwaukee with a couple blowout home wins. The Bucks won the most recent matchup, but Lowry was out with the injury. And after some expected struggles without Lowry, Toronto has won five straight.