I’m not really a believer in fate, destiny, or the preordination of the universe. However, if I was a little more open-minded, this Bucks team might mess around and make me a believer.
The truth of the matter is, they’ve survived extremely long odds; or it feels like they have, at least. Their playoffs began with a chance to exact revenge against a Miami Heat team that made Milwaukee a laughingstock for an entire season, an opportunity they took full advantage of. Then they had to take on the Kevin Durant juggernaut, aided in part by an early injury to James Harden and a mid-series injury to Kyrie Irving. Still, KD gave them everything they could handle and then some, with Milwaukee hanging on by literal centimeters to win a game seven on the road.
After all that, a series against the Hawks felt like smooth sailing. And yet Giannis Antetokounmpo goes down and suddenly the entire season looks like it might vanish in the blink of an eye. For ~24 fraught hours everything hung in the balance, Basketball Death having taken a seat across the table and daring us to beat it in a staring contest.
Death blinked first.
A (relatively) extremely positive prognosis for Giannis meant that he not only wouldn’t have lost an entire year of his prime playing days, but could potentially make a return in these playoffs if the stars aligned. Without him, the likes of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, PJ Tucker, hell, even Mike Budenholzer, rallied with everything on the line to win not just one more ECF game, but two in a row to punch the team’s ticket to the Finals for the first time in nearly five decades.
Each and every time the odds get impossibly long, the Milwaukee Bucks have somehow beat them. Can they pull off one more winning hand when it matters most? We have the immense pleasure of finding out.
From #Bucksin6 to winning in six: The Bucks’ path to the NBA Finals (The Undefeated)
A nice synopsis of the ups and downs this team has had since the infamous “Bucks in Six” 2013 playoff shellacking at the hands of the Miami Heatles. And the best part about our weird little motto is its merging of both the actual winning of a series in six games with the come-what-may attitude that it represents. Long odds? The longest odds? We’ll conquer them too, in time.
It Took a Village to Get the Bucks to the Finals (The Ringer)
We can appreciate the contributions of the non-star players in the moment; it’s a large reason why PJ Tucker and Bobby Portis are cementing themselves as folk heroes less than a year after arriving in town. But, really, I think we’ll come to truly marvel at what the Bucks were able to get out of their role players these past two series in particular once the dust has settled. Right now there is still a story to be written and so the next game up is what matters most. In due time, though, I’m going to enjoy going back to look at how the Bucks (for the first time in what feels like ever) got plus minutes out of almost everyone they threw out on the court.
For the Milwaukee Bucks, the Jrue Holiday Gamble Yielded a Jackpot (New York Times)
Assessing the difference between this Bucks squad its recent iterations isn’t as simple as Eric Bledsoe v. Jrue Holiday... but that certainly has a large role to play in understanding why the ceiling feels higher with this team. Oftentimes, it boils down to whether one of your lead guards is actively shying away from playing a decisive role or, if they get up the courage to try something, doing something silly and wasting valuable possessions. Jrue, even at his worst, was generally making plus-decisions on both ends, and when he clicked he was taking and making some extremely difficult shots at the biggest moments. Pretty good for a one-time All-Star.
At Milwaukee’s most vulnerable moment, Bucks finally break through & ‘Godfather II’, Jerry West retires and more: It’s been 47 years since the Bucks reached The Finals (NBA.com)
A trip down memory lane to 1974 and a final acknowledgement of the Bucks finding ways to win no matter the style. And wouldn’t it just be sweet as can be if games five and six fully unleashed Khris and Jrue to really take their production another level right as Giannis returns to the lineup?
Fan Post of the Week
boisdevache out here with an attempt at stat-tea-leaf-reading in “Playoff top scorers without a 3P”. In pursuit of the forbidden knowledge of whether it’s all that common for a game’s leading scorer to not make a single three point shot, it turns out that... it is somewhat common and that big men like Giannis and Anthony Davis are real offensive wrecking balls even without the outside jumper. And Chris Paul, apparently. Of course.
Know Your Enemy
- Phoenix Suns - Bright Side of the Sun - NBA Finals matchup set: Suns vs. Bucks
It’s just us and them, now. Two of the best-named sites in the SB Nation roster facing off for the honor of lighting up their comments section in green or mauve depending on how the series goes. Let it rip.
The Social Media Section
...Khris, is that you?
June 13, 2021
The hurdles they’ve cleared to reach this point. Respect.
This one. Giannis and Khris. pic.twitter.com/MCPLvO82J5— Dan Shafer (@DanRShafer) July 4, 2021
Jim Paschke courtside for game three NOW
Feeling pretty darn good. Let’s do this! https://t.co/NWhzFJWi47— Jim Paschke (@Paschketball) July 4, 2021
Just vibing, arrived in the NBA, might just get a ring the first time out
July 4, 2021
Kareem, bro, you can just lie and say you believe in your old team. Literally zero stakes in doing that lol
https://t.co/TqMeok28BS pic.twitter.com/owOGnyxsaZ— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) July 4, 2021
By “4 more” I assume he mean’s he’s signing a four year deal after opting out of his player option
TURNED NOTHING INTO SOMETHING! Thank you God! 4 more let’s gooooo...MKE I love you ‼️ https://t.co/nQpYK2xzJN— Bobby BP Portis (@BPortistime) July 4, 2021
Congratulations Torrey Craig for winning his first championship!— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 4, 2021
No matter who wins the Finals, he will get a ring for playing for both the Suns and Bucks this season.
(Submitted by @wholecake3) pic.twitter.com/ChpLWKH8es
Ricky Pierce: Big Bucks fan
July 2, 2021
This guy has been me since I found out Giannis’s knee didn’t literally explode
Man told Giannis to “walk it off” lmaoooooooooooo I’m dead pic.twitter.com/oPmicShVZe— It Me, NBA Draft Expert™ (@ChampagneChonny) June 30, 2021
Predictions? I don’t have any, or at least any that are useful to anyone. All I know is this Bucks team has been on a hell of a ride. Is it foolish of me to believe they can win it all? Yeah, probably. Oh well. What’s being a fan if you can’t throw caution to the wind?
Game one is tomorrow night in Phoenix, and then it’s the typical every-other-night schedule. Game two on Thursday, game three in Milwaukee Sunday (yes, I originally wrote Saturday here like an idiot. Credit to @BPTimmer on Twitter for gently chiding my lack of bothering to Google the schedule).
From here, anything goes. Believe! Hope! And have some fun with it!