Full disclosure: I’m writing this about an hour after the Bucks dropped game three on the road to the Toronto Raptors. We here at Brew Hoop tend to like our analysis to be objective, we enjoy parsing through the numbers and making sense of the chaotic world of basketball, but at the end of the day we live and die every night with this team.
Losing game three felt like death by slow suffocation, and it will leave a bad taste in my mouth for at least the next 24 hours. It isn’t so much that they lost — it happens, and even this Bucks team was good for an L occasionally — but the fashion in which they did. Giannis Antetokounmpo scooped up 23 rebounds, yet couldn’t get anything going offensively; Khris Middleton has to spend all his time and effort making sure Kawhi Leonard doesn’t go for 50; Eric Bledsoe? I won’t write anything I’d immediately regret about how he did, but at a minimum he’s staring into the “unacceptable” performance abyss.
There were positives to be sure (hi Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill!), but the Bucks had Toronto on the ropes with a chance to break their backs with another come-from behind victory and their top three players fell woefully short. For a team with championship ambitions, that just can’t happen. It can’t, and with luck, it won’t again.
But, anyways, enough about me being stuck deep in my feelings at 11 PM. Funnily enough, you reach the Eastern Conference Finals and suddenly the national attention ratchets up a decibel or two (or ~20 as was the case this week).
First and foremost, I think it a worthy place to begin by highlighting the continuing impact this team and its players have off the court. Their positive influence is constantly being felt not only in Milwaukee, but thousands of miles away and in so many unique ways — as inspirations, as role-models, as ambassadors, and as bridges who use basketball (directly or otherwise) to connect disparate peoples:
Giannis Through the Eyes of Milwaukee Refugees (The Ringer)
Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon: ‘My life passion is not basketball. It’s helping people.’ (The Undefeated)
As is almost always the case, Giannis got plenty of shine before and during the series, and just as unsurprising is the fact that much of his story is that of the story that he’s touched in one way or another:
Giannis Is Becoming the New King in the East (The Ringer)
In Giannis They Trust (Bleacher Report Mag)
Giannis Is the MVP (Players’ Tribune - Pau Gasol)
Giannis is taking over the NBA, one playoff game at a time (SB Nation)
There was also a slew of articles resetting the proverbial table for Milwaukee as they prepared themselves to embark on their journey through the ECF. Most tend towards the most optimistic outlook for the Bucks’s future which is just fine by us (even if not every single bounce will always go Milwaukee’s way):
If you’re just now seeing how strong the Bucks are, it’s too late (ESPN)
NBA playoffs: These three-point Bucks take aim at beating Raptors (LA Times)
It may be time to start thinking about a Buck dynasty in the East (Yahoo Sports)
In the East, It Has Been All Bucks So Far (but Not All Giannis) (New York Times)
Bucks Leaving the Doubters Behind (Milwaukee Magazine)
And what about the team’s GM? I think I speak for damn near everyone reading that the circumstances surrounding Jon Horst’s hire were... not ideal. It looked like a compromise candidate who somehow rose from the fiery wreck of the John Hammond administration. It looked like wealthy owners unable to find consensus. It looked like Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving town in a few years. It now looks like the greatest bit of dumb luck second only to stumbling into a chance to draft Giannis:
Not long ago, he was shoveling sewage. Now Jon Horst could win NBA executive of the year. (Washington Post)
How Jon Horst rose from FedEx night shift to Milwaukee Bucks GM (Yahoo Sports)
Finally, we have all the guys best known as “not named Giannis”, or, better yet, “the Bench Mob”. It doesn’t matter which unit it is or what title they happen to bear, the non-Giannis Bucks have been excellent in spurts and reliable for long stretches. Against an opponent like the Raptors, that depth could prove deadly. Will they be able to hold up that production when the challenge isn’t just a single guy in Kawhi Leonard and is instead a three- to four-headed monster in Golden State? Only time will tell:
If Brook Lopez Seemed to Be Everywhere, It’s Because He Was (New York Times)
Brook Lopez Couldn’t Fit Better Next to Giannis in Milwaukee Bucks’ Title Chase (Bleacher Report)
The Bucks have something more powerful than a Superteam (SB Nation)
The Bucks watched and waited as Kawhi’s shot bounced Sixers (The Undefeated)
The Bucks’ role players are so much more than just ‘others’ (SB Nation)
The Social Media Section
Excuse me while I run through this here brick wall
Full @Giannis_An34 and @Kostas_ante13 commercial pic.twitter.com/hpU7gApBi1— Ty Bauschek (@TyBauschek) May 18, 2019
More Giannis life-touching!
Having the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference final is particularly sweet for Wisconsin's Greek community. #NBAPlayoffs— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) May 13, 2019
More on the game from @iananywhere: https://t.co/zMx545Du6C pic.twitter.com/jLw4TYSANz
Are there any two teammates who have more innate chemistry than Giannis and Ersan?
Just me or is this one helluva high five? pic.twitter.com/BMKMxuAwYO— Derek Seguin (@TheDerekSeguin) May 16, 2019
...painfully accurate video
Brook Lopez Be Like... pic.twitter.com/pAp7EZcSuz— Max (@maxisnicee) May 16, 2019
Giannis refuses to let the Celtics rest in peace
Giannis: “Against Boston, you can go down 1-0 and still be fine; but against Toronto, it's hard to be in that spot when you lose the first game in your home.”— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) May 14, 2019
This is pretty slick
For the city, by Milwaukee’s own!!— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 15, 2019
@BigshotRobot #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/mtyisKZKf0
Shaquille O’Neal for Milwaukee hype man
Pinch me I’m dreaming pic.twitter.com/yT1NA0QGe8— Bartetokounmpo Winkler (@WinksThinks) May 16, 2019
Bonzie “DJ Wilson” Colson
Yeah yeah yeah, this isn’t Bucks-related, but we can all laugh at the Kings clowning the Sixers
Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way, @sixers fans. Trade complete. pic.twitter.com/zINTpdhrIP— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) May 15, 2019
Unfortunate as last night’s loss was, it should be noted that it does open up the possibility of the Bucks closing out the series and punching their ticket to a Finals appearance on their home court.
To get there, however, they’ll need to make a stand and show (as they have) that they detest losing. The next chance to do just that comes tomorrow as game four kicks off at 7:30 PM Central in Toronto. Depending on how that game goes, the Bucks will return to Milwaukee Thursday for game five and, if necessary, head back across the border Saturday for another go-round in Toronto.
Throughout a dominant regular season it was nigh-impossible for teams to get the Bucks to lose two in a row. So far, they haven’t yet allowed that ignominy this post-season, and a dominant close-out over these coming days would go a long way to salving our (read: my) wounds.