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NBA Playoffs 2018: Last Chance for Now, Early Look at the Future

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Five Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Bucks have, for the past two decades, been a frustrating franchise to follow. Fans have withstood the win-now moves, the ill-fated personnel decisions, and the sub-par performances, and kept coming back. Most of them, anyway. It’s hard to find a casual Bucks fan in Wisconsin because...there aren’t very many right now.

But casual fans often find their way through the woodwork when the playoffs come around, and many observers will root for their city’s team simply out of the desire for short-term success. That Giannis guy is pretty good! That Middleton guy sure can shoot! I heard they fired Jason Kidd a while ago, so they should be way better! Go get those Celtics!

And then for some, Game Seven tomorrow night against the Boston Celtics is more than just a contest to see who can advance in the NBA Playoffs. It is, perhaps unfairly, a referendum on the state of the franchise, which has been maligned and criticized at nearly every turn since the last turn of the century. This team hasn’t won a playoff series in a generation, and while it wouldn’t necessarily mean that everything on this ship has been righted, the relief stemming from the confirmation of the Bucks’ legitimacy as an NBA franchise worth following would be palpable.

For die hard followers, an important point to remember is that this postseason means very little. The Bucks are on their way to getting a new coach and moving towards a major reset in the summer, while the Celtics are playing with piles of house money as their two stars recuperate from injury. Neither team is going to look the same next year. Moreover, with the Bucks’ cap outlook, there’s no strong indication that this team will look remarkably different next season. There is no substitute for playoff experience! Get it now!

At the same time, a series win over an opponent like Boston, a franchise with more championship banners than their fair share, would simply feel good. It’s fun watching your team win, even if they still have problems. It’s rewarding witnessing your chosen squad compete at the highest level, and challenging themselves to live up to the standards that the moment demands. Fans deserve and should expect nothing (even though we will) from their favorite team, but celebrating a win in the last part of a long, dramatic season would carry with it a certain catharsis that Bucks fans could probably use right now.

And if the Bucks don’t win? Nothing changes. That’s the beauty of where Milwaukee is right now, as a franchise. There are major decisions coming up, and with those decisions will come the changes fans have clamored for. We still have the NBA Draft. We still have free agency (particularly the restricted portion of it). There will be a coaching search. New players will arrive, current players will depart, and we will be able to discuss all of it with this playoff experience fresh in our minds. “Man, the Bucks were pretty good, despite all those issues, just think how good they can be next year...”

So consider this when you prepare to settle in to watch Game Seven: Just enjoy it. Drink it all in. Appreciate the pre-prime (he’s 23!) excellence of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Recognize the sometimes-ugly but often-effective play of Khris Middleton. Get excited about a Jabari Parker dunk, or a Thon Maker block, or a Tony Snell triple, or an Eric Bledsoe steal. Salute your president when Malcolm Brogdon hits a heady reverse layup. Deploy the wings when Jason Terry goes into JET mode. Celebrate even the smallest contributions of Tyler Zeller, Matthew Dellavedova, and Shabazz Muhammad. Hope that Brandon Jennings and Sterling Brown get to play, because why not? If the game is a loss, it’s a loss, and we’ll have a long time before we play again. And if it’s somehow a win? Well...then on to the next series!