“The games don’t matter...”
“They just have to flip the switch...”
“Energy and effort...”
“The seeding games are for getting healthy and in shape...”
These are all things we have said, or even believed, the past two weeks while the Bucks are in the bubble. While the issues were glaring and staring at us in the face, the same issues continued in Game 1 of the postseason. Thanks to the inept performance, the Bucks now face a must-win game.
In Game 2, of the first round of the NBA playoffs.
...this is fine.
Bad defense both on the perimeter and in the paint, too many turnovers, nobody can consistently hit threes. If the Bucks didn’t get the memo that their poor play from the last two weeks would carry over into the playoffs, they sure got it Tuesday afternoon in a 110-122 loss to the Orlando Magic.
The loss was both embarrassing and pathetic from a team that expects to challenge for the title, and there’s no sugar coating it. They were outplayed, outhustled, outcoached and looked like the 33-win 8-seed they played against. Meanwhile, an Orlando Magic team, depleted by injuries, looked like a team that was ready for playoff basketball. It started with hitting tough midrange shots and threes, which turned in to Nikola Vucevic bullying and feasting on an invisible rim defense to the tune of 35 points.
When you look at the positives from Tuesday afternoon, you can look at Giannis Antetokounmpo, who tried everything he could to win but had no help from any of the starters, barring two or three minutes from Eric Bledsoe. Speaking of Bledsoe, he was at the very least passable and not a disaster. George Hill was a solid bench guy with 16 points on 5/9 shooting, and that’s basically it.
Where did things go wrong for Milwaukee? You have to look at two players who simply need to be better than they were considering their role and pay. Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez combining for 19 points on 6/21 shooting simply isn’t good enough. Neither could do anything positive on either end of the floor. If Milwaukee wants to be a good NBA team, let alone a title contender, those two have to be better.
Khris, you’re getting paid like a star, time to play like it. Brook, you got a pay raise after your impressive play the year before; you can do better. Yes, these two have been good in the regular season, but none of that matters when the playoffs start.
Bud said Orlando was the more aggressive team, you simply can’t let that happen. That’s simply unacceptable for a playoff game after limping into the bubble. The intensity has to be there for all 48 minutes. Orlando outscored Milwaukee on the fast break by 8 in the first half, why were the Bucks not getting back on defense?
It looked like maybe Milwaukee would get it together when they slimmed the lead to one in the third quarter, but all of the present issues reared its head and once again Milwaukee had no answers for the Magic. It’s been said the Bucks simply can’t put together a complete performance and their best play came in the first game of the bubble. Where is that team? Was it a flash in the pan?
Game 1 was frustrating, annoying, unacceptable, and awful. Stop comparing Milwaukee’s loss to the Celtics in Game 1 (of the second round) last year as a way for the team to bounce back, and don’t make comparison of the Raptors losing Game 1 to the Magic last year as an indicator things will be fine. The last two weeks of bubble play doesn’t indicate things will magically be okay.
Milwaukee HAS to play better, and everyone in that locker needs to ask themselves what are they going to do to make that possible. Giannis maybe doesn’t need to jack up 7 threes and only take 5 total shots in the first 20 minutes. We already mentioned Khris and Brook, and Bud is going to need to get a better handle on his rotation cause you can’t just casually throw out all bench units hoping they can at least hold their own. The so called “Bench Mob” needs to be Tony Soprano and his crew, and not Fat Tony from The Simpsons.
But Game 1 is done; if you’re mad, good, because you shouldn’t accept the performance from this team. Milwaukee hasn’t given anyone a good reason to think the issues in the bubble are going away anytime soon. A dominant performance will go a long ways to helping, but that’s something those players and Budenholzer need to figure out.
The Bucks were playing like the best team in the NBA prior to the COVID lockdown, they need to remember how they did and start doing it shortly. There is no switch to be flipped, there is no these games don’t matter, there isn’t any more excuses. Now that I’ve had my cathartic release, time to hope Game 2 has a better result.