Fresh off the high of their historic 108-95 win over the 24-0 Warriors, the Milwaukee Bucks return to the reality of the road this week, kicking off a four-game Western swing with a back-to-back against the Lakers and Clippers in L.A. But while the Bucks' recent form has provided some reasons for optimism, the standings suggest they're going to have to play major catch-up in the much-improved Eastern Conference.
On the one hand, the Bucks start their road trip just four games out of the eighth spot in the East. With 57 games to go that's hardly an insurmountable deficit, right? Maybe, maybe not. Despite winning three of five, Milwaukee remains 13th in the East, and it's not easy picking out five teams they'll be able to catch from here on out. From what we've seen thus far, things would have to dramatically change for any of the top seven teams -- Cleveland, Chicago, Toronto, Charlotte, Indiana, Miami and Boston -- to miss the playoffs entirely, and that doesn't even include last year's #1 seed Atlanta or the home court-aspiring Wizards, both of whom are currently out of the playoffs but still ahead of the Bucks.
Thus, if current form holds and the eighth seed wins something on the order of 44 games, the Bucks would need to go at least 34-23 (!) over their remaining schedule, a result that most forecasting models understandably don't seem particularly bullish on. Both FiveThirtyEight and numberFire currently project the Bucks' odds of making the playoffs at just 5-6%, a product largely driven by their notably poor point differential (-6.0 points/100, which is more consistent with an 8-17 team), difficult schedule and the strong performances of the teams ahead of them currently.
All of which raises obvious questions about how Bucks' players, management and fans should be re-calibrating their expectations going forward. If the playoffs are now a longshot at best, what would constitute a successful season from here on out? Which players are likely to be around for the longer term, and which could be trade bait over the coming weeks and months? We tackle those and a number of other listener questions in Part II of our weekly podcast below, and you can also check out Part I focusing on the win over the Warriors below. Subscribe via iTunes here.