Welcome back to the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the pugs from the table, thanks. Today, we look back at the 2017-18 season and ahead to the Milwaukee Bucks matchup against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoffs.
The Bucks went 44-38; how do you feel about the regular season?
Kyle: Pretty meh. I didn’t think Milwaukee would win 50 games, but I expected the team to at least look better. The beginning of the season was good with Giannis going supernova to start the year and acquiring Eric Bledsoe. But for every win impressive against the Blazers, Spurs, Celtics and Raptors; there was a disappointing loss against the Bulls, Nets, Mavericks and Magic. I feel with a different coaching staff, Milwaukee would have won the 50 games they had set for themselves.
Adam: I can’t say disappointment, since I presumed they would win around this figure, but the fact they added clear talent midseason and still couldn’t make even a mini-leap was frustrating. The specter of horrendous coaching lingered overhead like a gas leak all season, and spoiled even minor victories like Prunty’s win streak or magnificent play in clutch periods. This felt like another lost season in the overcrowded annals of lost Bucks seasons.
Rachael: I came out of the regular season feeling emotionally drained. Sometimes I wish I didn’t care as much, because loving a team and it’s players so much only causes the rough patches and losses hurt so much more. I think my biggest frustration was that we keep making the same mistakes and struggling in the same areas. I’m with Kyle, I believe 100% we would have won at least 50 games with a different coaching staff.
Mitchell: Bring on the playoffs. Please.
Greg: It all felt so...hollow. It felt like those sequences in movies where the protagonist is sitting on a train, staring straight ahead, and all around people are walking past going about their day, but the protagonist seems stuck. The Bucks saw the Raptors, 76ers, and even the Pacers massively improve while they themselves stagnated.
What will you remember the most from this year?
But in all seriousness, this year is all about how Giannis Antetokounmpo established himself as a truly elite player despite a subpar outside shot. For his entire career, the refrain was always, “Just wait until he gets a jumper. Just wait until he gets a jumper.” Well, he still doesn’t really have a jumper, and he’s in the Top 10 in the league in Win Shares, VORP, and PER. And bit by bit, his jumper is getting better.
Kyle: Besides the obvious dunk, I would say Giannis’ “60 Minutes” feature. While it echoed what many of us already knew about Giannis’ upbringing, it was awesome to see the nation be intrigued by him and thoroughly want him to beat out Stormy Daniels for attention.
Adam: Jason Kidd’s firing. While it didn’t shift the season, nor did it come soon enough to potentially salvage the current construction of this team, the shock when it happened was the most memorable moment of the season. I presumed we were going to be sentenced to more years of the same illogical, circuitous babbling coming out of his mouth about energy and effort. Mercifully, the organization freed us of that.
I also don’t miss having to see every shot elicit #FireKidd tweets.
Rachael: On a personal level, I’ll always remember it as the season I was able to live out my dreams and attend games as a credentialed media member. On a fan level, it definitely was Kidd being fired.
Greg: The “Air Horn Game” against Portland in October. It was the first home win of the season, the Bradley Center buzzer stopped working so they resorted to using an air horn as a substitute. Giannis scored a career-high 44 points and completely took over in the fourth quarter, including the game clinching poke on CJ McCollum that lead to a fast break slam.
What can’t you forget about this year fast enough?
Adam: Besides the Kidd stuff, I’m pretty perplexed with how they’ve handled Tony Snell. For a guy whose play spiraled after his Chicago coaching staff lost faith in him, why would you purposefully bench him to send a message? He’s seemed less confident the second half of the year. The next coach hopefully can re-instill that faith in him.
Rachael: Malcolm’s injury, D.J. Wilson looking like a bust (in my opinion), Kidd’s horrible postgame comments blaming the team, Snell turning in a ghost, waiving Gerald Green, getting frostbite on my face after walking home from the arena this winter, and the team being completely allergic to rebounding.
Mitchell: Presenting, an incomplete list:
- November 18 – Dallas 111, Milwaukee 79
- December 15 – Chicago 115, Milwaukee 109
- December 26 – Chicago 115, Milwaukee 106
- February 28 – Detroit 110, Milwaukee 87
- March 14 – Orlando 126, Milwaukee 117
- April 5 – Brooklyn 119, Milwaukee 111
Bad teams win games, and good teams lose games, but good teams should not lose games to bad teams so often. The Bucks, who almost completely failed to show up in each of the six games listed above, were too often the harbingers of their own demise not just this season, but for as long as anyone can remember. These six games are mere examples of the Bucks’ wild inconsistency, and are the difference between celebrating success with a 50-win campaign, and the current morass that Bucks fans find themselves wading through. I would be all too happy to put #NeverTrustTheBucks to rest, starting next season.
How does Milwaukee win their first round series?
Mitchell: The Bucks’ key to victory is doing everything in their power to leverage Giannis’ status as “best player on the floor.” Even without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, Boston has considerable talent on their roster, but the Bucks’ advantage is being able to boast the best singular talent, on either side. Giannis will give the Bucks the opportunity; it is up to the coaching staff and supporting cast to put him in a position to overwhelm the Celtics.
Kyle: Khris Middleton showing up would be a very helpful thing for Milwaukee. The last two playoff series, he has been a non-factor when Milwaukee needed him the most. With the addition of Eric Bledsoe, that should help alleviate the load for him. Otherwise, Milwaukee’s bench has to not let anything hit the fan when Giannis sits. The bench this year might be better than the bench last year with Brogdon, Zeller, Terry, and maybe Jabari all contributing.
Adam: A transcendent performance by Giannis on the big stage is paramount, but I think Eric Bledsoe will be the one who ultimately swings this series. That’s where Milwaukee theoretically has the largest talent gap between them and Boston. Horford is no Giannis, but he’s an All-Star and rugged defender. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum can cancel out Khris Middleton. Without Irving though, Bledsoe has a chance to try and drive to the rack relentlessly against weaker Boston point guards and muck up their guard-centric offense. Keep Rozier and their other little go-go engines at bay, maybe throw in some switches because Bledsoe can battle with Boston’s wings. The Bucks catch a huge break with no Marcus Smart available to bother Bledsoe. That’s a decent recipe.
Rachael: The ability to mesh with each other despite the full roster only playing a few minutes together during an actual game. I mean:
I believe the last time the Bucks had their whole roster available at the start & end of a game (thus excluding Middleton's return/Parker's injury last season) was a Nov. 27, 2015 game vs ORL. Oddly enough, Joe Prunty coached that game, too, as Jason Kidd served a suspension. https://t.co/NDACDrwJvs— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) April 11, 2018
Besides needing chemistry, we need the bench to provide offense. We need Middleton to show up, and we need Snell to step up and make up for the past few months of being unproductive. Everyone needs to be on the top of their game and help Giannis carry the weight.
Greg: Here is the formula for a Bucks win:
Giannis turning into the hulk + (Middleton x Bledsoe playing above average)/average defensive rating
Likewise, how does Boston win their first round series?
Kyle: Making sure Brad Stevens is healthy enough to coach. Otherwise if Boston needs to do enough to just have Giannis be the only Milwaukee player to do something on the court. If Al Horford continues his relatively impressive defense against Giannis, that should allow the Celtics to win the series.
Adam: Like Kyle said, it all starts with Al Horford’s potential to disrupt Giannis’ rhythm or force him into foul trouble. From there though, it’s really just a test of whether Boston’s league average offense can keep up with Milwaukee’s firepower. In its neutered state, that may be tough, but Boston’s D has been resolute all year. I fully expect Boston to tear Milwaukee’s paper thin defenses to pieces, and Brad Stevens will find every possible way to exploit them.
Rachael: Rebounding, defense, and their bench continuing to step up as they have throughout their season of injuries. Shutting Giannis down will be their focus and that will hurt Milwaukee the most.
Greg: Here is the formula for a Celtics win:
Al Horford turning into the hulk + (Jaylen Brown x Terry Rozier being the best guards on the floor)/Brad Stevens
Prediction time: Who wins the series, and in how many games?
Kyle: Celtics in 6. Milwaukee has more talent and I expect every game to be close. I think the mismatch in coaching is going to be too much for Milwaukee in key stretches of the game.
Adam: Celtics in 6. I have no faith in this coaching staff or squad at the moment to turn what’s been middling to horrendous play into something productive in the playoffs. Brad Stevens will eat this defense alive.
Rachael: Celtics in 6. It hurts my heart not to believe we will advance, but I have to be realistic, and as Adam said, the Bucks haven’t given us much hope which how terrible they’ve been playing.
Mitchell: Let me turn those frowns upside-down: Bucks in 6. Not only is it for the culture, but my prediction is based on the ultimate equalizing factor in the NBA: talent. As bad as the coaching strategies were this season, the Bucks were still good. That is not to equate “good” with “good enough,” which they certainly weren’t, but it speaks to the caliber of player that is on the roster. Stevens can certainly get more from less, but the Bucks simply have more.
Giannis will, by far, be the best player on the floor. Full stop. After that, will it be Al Horford or Khris Middleton? And after them, will it be Jayson Tatum, or Jaylen Brown, or Eric Bledsoe? The fact that the second and third tier of players involved in this series is even a debate says to me that there’s enough wiggle room for both sides to take control of the game for stretches...but none of the players can stack up to the great vengeance and furious anger that’s coming from the Greek Freak.
Greg: Before I prognosticate, I’ll shamelessly plug a little history write up I did between on the postseason history between the two franchises. Since history repeats itself, we are either going to get a one-sided sweep, or a seven game series. I think we’ll see this go seven games and I think the Celtics in 7 will be the most likely outcome.