Spring is almost here, and optimism is consuming us. Wait, it's not?
Just please adjust the grocery bag out of your line of vision and read on. The Bucks are only 5.5 games out of the playoffs. With slightly less than a month left in the regular season, that's no small amount of ground to make up. Then again, it's hardly an insurmountable deficit. And really, what fun would being a couple games under .500 and coasting to the eight seed have been anyway? Now the only realistic way the Bucks will make the playoffs is if they win something like 14 of their final 16 games. If you're going to make the playoffs as a sub-.500 team, that's really the only way to do it and still feel proud. Luckily, the script is set and the characters are getting back into form.
After watching this team beat the Cavaliers, Lakers, and Mavericks in the same week, then taking off a couple months before beating the Pistons, Nuggets, and Cavaliers in the same week, we know they are maddeningly inconsistent (some would say just bad) but also capable. Thankfully, we don't need to bother with consistency; it's far too late for that anyway. We only need to hope the Bucks saved their best for last. We're not asking for a season full of success, just a couple weeks. This proposed comeback is a tall order, but while we're realists, we also prefer to hang with the crowd that says "Yes We Can."
Further, we must consider that being 5.5 games out with 16 to play is a lot better situation than being three games out with six to play, the situation the Brewers found themselves in last year. And that's after they were up by 7.5 games earlier. Things change, and change fast. As Wisconsinites, we know this.
This is all a matter of convenient time and place. Normally being 23-43 would mean there was absolutely no hope for postseason play. But 2008 and the Eastern Conference is not a normal time or place. So what is the schedule outlook? Well, the Bucks sandwich a game against the Cavaliers with two against the Heat. The Heat are infamous for winning only a game or two per month and stand an unfathomably bad 4-33 against the East this season. Let's see... win, win. But what about the Cavaliers? At first thought, this game might seem like a frightful prospect. That is, until you realize the Bucks are winning the season series and are playing at home, where they win most of the time, something the Cavaliers can't boast on the road.
In fact, the entire schedule down the stretch isn't terribly intimidating. The Bucks don't play any good teams from the West (they only play the Timberwolves) and just six of their final 16 opponents have winning records. Plus, six games come against teams (Hawks, Bulls, Pacers, Nets) that the Bucks must pass in the standings.
Time and place, remember? Consider the Trailblazers. They are considered one of the NBA's biggest success stories this year and have a winning record. And life with Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden is looking sunny. The trouble is that Portland is close to the Pacific Ocean, which this year means they are 7.0 games out of the playoffs, rather than the 6.5 games up that they'd be if Portland was close to the Atlantic Ocean.
Okay, so what happens if by some unforseen streak of bad luck the Bucks keep playing like themselves instead of the Rockets? The Trailblazers help to explain again:
They Bucks could win 29 or 30 games and finish in last place in the Central again. Not cool? Think again. Last season, the Trailblazers, the eventual overall number one draft pick holders, went 32-50. So in the event the Bucks don't climb into the postseason as center of all national media attention and as the hottest team in the NBA, they very well could land the top pick in the draft, which could net them a star-in-the-making such as Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose.
The underlying reason for rejoice is that with less than a month remaining in the season Bucks fans can still hold onto (a very small, albeit) hope of their team reaching the postseason or (a slightly better chance of) getting the number one pick in the draft. This shouldn't be possible, but it is. At this stage, that can only be considered a win-win scenario.