Following last night's veritable disaster in Milwaukee, the Bucks now sit a full three games behind the Indiana Pacers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Charlotte Bobcats. With only 12 games remaining, the margin of error is no longer slim, or razor-thin, or even so-narrow-that-you-can't-see-it-when-it-turns-sideways. It is non-existent. It, along with a substantial chunk of this team's remaining self-respect, disappeared when the Bucks dropped an exceedingly winnable contest at home against one of the NBA's worst teams.
Yet the way is not yet shut. Milwaukee has ground to make up, but let's not forget that before their recent back-to-back wins, the Pacers had lost seven of their previous ten games, including losses to Minnesota and Toronto. This isn't exactly a juggernaut the Bucks are chasing. Still, a three-game lead this late in the season offers Indiana a huge advantage in the race for the playoffs. Just to give you an idea, John Hollinger's Playoff Odds give the Bucks a 5.6% chance of making the playoffs at this juncture.
If you dare, read on for a closer look at Milwaukee, Indiana, and Charlotte's remaining schedules, and let's try to get an idea of the task laid out in front of the Bucks.
10 Games Remaining
Combined record of remaining opponents: 324-384 (.458)
Home/Road games: 7/3
The Pacers have played two more games than the Bucks and Bobcat already, and a relatively favorable schedule down the stretch gives Indiana a very good shot at winning at least four more games (SAC, @DET, DET, WAS). With a head-start aiding them, Indiana likely needs only avoid a complete collapse to maintain their spot in the playoffs.
12 Games Remaining
Combined record of remaining opponents: 402-448 (.473)
Home/Road games: 4/8
According to opponent wins and losses, the Bucks actually have the most difficult remaining schedule of the three teams listed here. They play a full two-thirds of their remaining games on the road, where they have won only 9 games all season. Still, there are at least a few games the Bucks should win (if such games exist anymore), with home games against Toronto and Cleveland. While every victory is crucial at this point, the March 28th game in Charlotte and especially the April 1st game at Indiana are absolute must-wins. The Bucks have shown themselves capable of at least playing competitive basketball against most of the elite teams remaining on their schedule, but close loses now count for precisely zilch.
12 Games Remaining
Combined record of remaining opponents: 385-464 (.453)
Home/Road games: 7/5
Charlotte has an even more difficult path to the playoffs than Milwaukee, as the Bucks hold a tiebreaker thanks two their previous two victories in the three-game season series. What Charlotte does have going for it is a remarkably easy schedule. The Bobcats play the Cavaliers twice, have home games against the Wizards and Pistons, and visit the Nets in their second-to-last game. Charlotte probably needs a major collapse from Indiana to earn the 8th seed, plus they need to outpace the Bucks by at least a game to avoid losing on the head-to-head tiebreaker. According to John Hollinger, the Bobcats are just below the Bucks with a 3.0% chance of making the playoffs.