Oh how poetic it may prove to be.
The Milwaukee Bucks will face the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals in a rematch between two teams with very different paths to this destination. For Milwaukee, the buck (sorry) stops with Giannis Antetokounmpo and everything that has grown up around his shining star. For Toronto this trip to the ECF is not a new experience, but the presence of Kawhi Leonard makes this Raptors team something potentially unlike those units of years past that couldn’t get by LeBron James.
This is a title fight between a storied franchise reawakening from decades of torpor and the new kid on the block still hoping to break through the highest of glass ceilings. The NBA playoffs often sifts the wheat from the chaff by design so it feels right to have the East’s top two seeds on the cusp of locking horns. That the series will feature a pair of basketball’s preeminent stars is a cherry on top of all the built-in drama.
A final hurdle stands between the Bucks and a shot at immortality and there’s no guarantee it’ll be as easy to vault as the two before it. Storm clouds gather on the horizon and it’s Milwaukee’s turn to persevere through them.
In This Season’s Playoffs, It’s the Bucks Making a Splash (New York Times)
How many times in the entire storied history of the NY Times have the Bucks featured in back-to-back weeks? -100?
Fresh off a look at Giannis’s complex place in the world of immigrants scraping out a living in Greece, the Times gave the Bucks a proper bit of hype after the dispatching of the Boston Celtics. If you weren’t convinced Milwaukee has a shot at a title after their dominant regular season, you’re rapidly running out of earth to stand on as the Bucks inch closer and closer to the Finals.
Not just Giannis: Deep Milwaukee Bucks roar into East finals (Washington Post)
Old friend of the program Charles Gardner is right back into the thick of things shining a spotlight on the crucial role Milwaukee’s depth has played in getting the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. The beauty of the series against Boston wasn’t just seeing Giannis visibly adjust from game one onwards, but to also have the likes of George Hill, Pat Connaughton, and a returned Malcolm Brogdon turn in unlikely performance after unlikely performance.
GM Jon Horst will get a lot of acclaim for the players he assembled in such a short period of time, but even an Executive of the Year nod wouldn’t feel like enough credit.
I’m aware that the Middleton Fault is the single point that routinely sends shockwaves through Bucks fans’ discussions, but I think I’ve reached a state of zen regarding the situation thanks to many of the arguments Paul Flannery sets out in this piece.
He is the epitome of the type of player who thrives in a Giannis-led environment in nearly every facet through his play and off-court demeanor. Meanwhile the front office has shown itself capable of defusing even the nastiest of traps with a deft hand. A positive resolution feels in the offing, even if we have to wait a few months to hear the details.
The conundrum of finding Malcolm Brogdon minutes got a whole lot less threatening with how positive his return against the Celtics was.
With Toronto routinely trotting out a five-man group of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Kawhi Leonard, and Marc Gasol, it feels like coach Mike Budenholzer could go numerous directions. Nikola Mirotic provided the spacing that unlocked Boston’s defense, and not rocking the boat unless necessary may be the initial strategy, especially as Malcolm continues to work his way back into the fold.
10 not-that-interesting facts about Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Record)
At first I was a little skeptical that they’d be able to find enough ordinary Giannis facts to pique my interest, but then I read this:
“3. Giannis made his first career three-point shot in a 118-95 loss to the Miami Heat on November 12, 2013. That same day, Season 8 of Deadliest Catch came out on DVD and Blu-Ray.”
It only gets more inane from there.
The Social Media Section
It’s that time - Farewell to the Boston Celtics!
"Paul Pierce sucks" chants to close out Game 5 in Milwaukee pic.twitter.com/xny2WOTjIo— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 9, 2019
Bucks end the Celtics season! pic.twitter.com/zmgWVHM9oI— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 9, 2019
Safe to say Terry Rozier is ready to get out of Boston. When asked about the #Celtics having the right to match any offer to him this summer, he said: "No comment."— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) May 9, 2019
celtics tried to build to win both now and later but might not do either. have fun this summer.— bomani (@bomani_jones) May 9, 2019
Kyrie Irving in his last game with the Boston Celtics went off. He put up:— Authentic 76ers Fan Account (@nihilist_bucks) May 9, 2019
The TL descending on Kyrie right now pic.twitter.com/gTN5qdDd6R— Ti Windisch (@TiWindisch) May 9, 2019
“Kyrie, what happened?”— Russillo (@ryenarussillo) May 9, 2019
“Well Guns, Germs and Steel argues that topography set cultures apart and limited access to water left many parts of the world behind.”
“Uh...what do think about free agency?”
“Is anything truly free?”
The leaks from the Celtics about Kyrie when he leaves are gonna be LEGENDARY— Carter Rodriguez (@Carter_Shade) May 9, 2019
These dudes leaked about ISAIAH THOMAS when THEY traded HIM
Knives gonna be OUT
Man, Giannis really went out and made as many threes in a real-life playoff series as Kyrie did. And on 15 fewer attempts.— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) May 9, 2019
That really happened.
Jayson Tatum made as many threes in that same real-life playoff series as (and I cannot stress this enough) Tim Frazier.— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) May 9, 2019
...AND HELLO 2019-2020 LAKERS!
Jason Kidd has agreed to join Vogel's Lakers staff in a prominent assistant coaching role, league sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/ZrQRWfq1US— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 11, 2019
Frank Vogel yelling at LeBron and Kyrie to play defense while Jason Kidd whispers in their ears that he would never make them spend energy defending and Kurt Rambis stands in the back eating a hot dog with the packaging still on it.— Ryan Bernardoni F.C. (@dangercart) May 12, 2019
Kurt Rambis — who one anonymous exec called the Lakers’ "shadow president" — was reportedly behind the Jason Kidd and Frank Vogel hirings, not Rob Pelinka. https://t.co/9r1shyjFP9 pic.twitter.com/NRN5GA8Pv1— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) May 12, 2019
This feels oddly relevant this morning
"Guys in Philly want to talk about the process, I'd rather talk about the results." - Bucks Owner Wes Edens pic.twitter.com/rHmRym25zs— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 19, 2017
When two of sport’s greatest collide
All that’s left is to mention that the Bucks will return to play three times this week. As usual the first two will be at home Wednesday and Friday followed by a trip east to play in Toronto on Sunday.
The cherry on top? No mid-day games to throw off Giannis’s very particular routine which automatically guarantees a sweep for the good guys.
Somehow, someway, the Milwaukee Bucks are back in the Eastern Conference Finals. 48 hours separates us from a return to the path of glory and they can’t go by fast enough.