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Extended Forecast: Weirdly Enough, That Last Stretch Didn’t Go So Bad

We beat the best, but can’t beat the Hawks or Raptors.

2021 70th NBA All-Star Game
The Last Three MVP’s Are Going to Be In Town
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the latest addition of Brew Hoop’s Extended Forecast, where the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves back in the contention conversation. This is a season-long series, covering all 82 games and giving an extended forecast of what the schedule looks like for the Bucks. Obviously, the first and second upcoming games will be the easiest to predict, since we have more information on injuries, trades, COVID-19 cases, etc. But in general, we still should have an idea of what is coming. Or not?

Can you believe it’s almost February? I don’t think I can, but if I had to pick the worst month of the basketball season, it would be January. In October we’re excited to be back, November and December have the NFL, college football and the holidays to distract us. February is short, but also has the trade deadline and the All-Star games. Leading into March is when the playoff race truly starts to take shape. And in April starts the postseason. But January? Cold, dark, snowy, stuck playing the Kings and Pelicans (and that group used to include Memphis), and kind of checking out for a bit. It’s part of why the NBA tries to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day such a major event, and it works, if you don’t have to work yourself. But it’s not enough to save January.

January has kind of gone “meh” for the Bucks, a lot of ups and downs, but it went better than the end of December for sure. Aside from that [expletive] loss to the Pistons (I will not let that one go). That Duke Guy got ejected for a flagrant foul on national TV, we lost (again) to our nemesis the Toronto Raptors, we ended the Hawks’ home losing streak by blowing a decent lead against a banged-up team that is probably going to reload for next season at this point. On the other hand, we beat three of the seven teams with a better record than us (all at home) in Golden State, Memphis and Chicago. And then there was the Kings’ game that got them a winning record for the forecast, even without Giannis.

Looking back at it, that wasn’t so bad, and honestly I can forget about that Hawks’ loss with those wins over those other teams. Granted, no Draymond Green, no Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks (they are actually two quality basketball players, I’m not trying to be funny mentioning them), and no Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine, but you still have to win. And the Bucks went 4-2 thanks to those wins.

Julie’s Projected 2021-22 Record: 33-16

The Bucks’ Actual Record: 30-19

I did read some of the comments on the last post, and some of you were talking about other teams having it tougher than us, things like that. While that is certainly possible, I wouldn’t say the Bucks have it easy. Between now and March 6th, we only have five games against teams under .500. We still have two against Phoenix and Brooklyn, three with Chicago, two with Cleveland and Philadelphia, one with Miami, road games at Golden State, Memphis, Utah and the Lakers (even if they might suck now), and that is 16 of our remaining 33 games. That’s not to mention other decent teams on the list like Denver, Dallas, Charlotte and Boston. It won’t be easy. On the flip side, we have two games with Portland (likely without Lillard), Oklahoma City, Detroit and Indiana once each, Atlanta (if you think they aren’t good), and a road game with Sacramento. That’s seven games that we should firmly pencil in out of that final 33. With the way we’ve played, is 50 wins even realistic? I’ll get to that later.

Upcoming, we have a road game in Cleveland, then a three-game homestand as we wrap up our season with the Knicks and Nuggets consecutively, and then conclude the homestand with Washington. We then start our first four-game Western Conference road-trip with Portland and the Clippers, and then the Lakers and Phoenix next time, which will also lead us into the All-Star break. But that’s not this time, so let’s get into this.

@Cleveland January 26th

This team has me a bit scared for the Bucks, seeing that as recent as January 20th, the Cavaliers were TIED with Milwaukee...I had to calm myself down before getting a metaphorical technical foul, it’s getting really hard to believe anything this season. Losing Collin Sexton (last season’s leading scorer) as well as Ricky Rubio hasn’t slowed them down yet either, so I don’t know. I’m just so lost this season, does anybody else feel that way?

Anyways, the real Bucks are 1-0 against the Cavaliers, since the 119-90 blowout was at the hands of a Nwora-Mamu-Smart led roster and while it does count for seeding it doesn’t count as much when comparing the teams. Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen are both having very fine seasons, Evan Mobley is doing well as a rookie, and even Kevin Love is starting to heat up off the bench. Even Rajon Rondo is kind of, kind of, having a bit of a renaissance when he actually finds the floor.

Injuries aren’t that bad aside from no Sexton or Rubio, but with the way that Garland and Rondo are playing, they aren’t needed. Garland leads in points, assists and steals (since Rubio is out), Allen in rebounds and Mobley in shot-blocking. Rondo and Lamar Stevens are also on the injury report, but likely will be available.

New York January 28th

New York, in my opinion, really stole from the Hawks. Kevin Knox wasn’t playing that well, and they managed to get a pretty decent two-for-one by adding a much higher potential player in Cam Reddish, as well as journeyman Solomon Hill. Slow down, this trade doesn’t make the Knicks a contender by any means, but it’s a nice upgrade and a surprising bad move in my opinion for the Hawks. The Knicks are starting to find a bit of last year’s magic, in spite of Julius Randle really slowing down his play from last time we saw this group. The Knicks have six active players scoring in double figures, and this doesn’t include Reddish who was for the Hawks prior to being traded. They also have a good defensive duo at center in Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel. The Bucks are 2-1 against the Knicks this season.

Randle still is leading in points, rebounds and assists, and I think he’s kind of the offense-version of Draymond Green. Maybe that’s a stretch, but I truly think that’s the kind of impact he has. Alec Burks leads in steals, and Robinson or Noel might be the shot-blocking leader by now, since they are pretty close. Oh, and Kemba Walker is kind of playing well again.

As for injuries, Derrick Rose will not be available, which may have an impact on Walker’s “return”. They also have an assortment of random bench players who were listed as questionable for January 21st, so I’m not going to mention them.

Denver January 30th

It’s really hard to tell if Denver is figuring anything out, with all of the injuries going on here. They acquired Bryn Forbes, former Buck Bryn Forbes, so we get a third meeting with him after all. This trade gave them some more depth, and adding ex-Buck DeMarcus Cousins also will. They are in the playoff mix, but how good is this team going to be? The main question for Denver is will Jamal Murray play, and how well? Because, this team will be without Michael Porter Jr. for the rest of the season, so depth could be a real concern here. Let’s see what Forbes and Cousins have to say about that. The Bucks went into Denver in November and beat the Nuggets 120-109, and that is a pretty good win considering how good we normally are playing in Denver.

With all of the injuries, Jokic is still here and playing at an almost MVP level. I don’t think he will or should get it, but his numbers don’t lie. He is the team leader in all five major categories, so maybe he can be the Northwest Division’s MVP? And this team really is just Jokic, because a big three of Will Barton, Aaron Gordon and Monte Morris won’t scare anyone. Those are a few nice “four’s” for a playoff threat, but none of them belong in a big three which is why they will need Jamal Murray to return and return to an All-Star level.

To sum up on injuries, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Vlatko Cancar will be out for this game. I didn’t mention Cancar because, well, he’s not worth mentioning until this point. There, he gets two and a half sentences. Also, keep an eye on Covid-19 with Denver, JaMychal Green just got put on the injury report with it.

Washington February 1st

The Wizards are one of those teams that you don’t really know what you are going to get from. They have been hovering around .500 all season, and if they haven’t dealt with injuries and lack of vaccinations to some of their players, they might be right around where the Bucks are. Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura are still working their way back from injury, etc., and Beal has missed multiple stints with Covid-19 protocol. However, the acquisitions in the offseason of Kyle Kuzma, Spencer Dinwiddie, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell have really paid off for the Wizards. In other words, wherever Russell Westbrook gets traded, the team that he was on always gets better. I thought this trade would help the Wizards, and it really has given this team a solid unit. And for what it’s worth, game one of this three-game season series went to the Wizards.

Beal is still the leader in scoring, although he is not the NBA leader like he was last season. He is also the clear-cut assists leader, which shows him stepping up. Kuzma leads in rebounds, Caldwell-Pope leads in steals and Daniel Gafford leads in blocks. Gafford is following similar footsteps to that of Bobby Portis, an ex-Arkansas scoring and rebounding machine within the past decade. Kyle Kuzma is on the injury report with a minor injury, and his status is uncertain for January 23rd, or 9 days earlier.

@Portland February 5th

Portland really has been a disappointment this season, and this is a much nicer start to the road trip than anticipated. Due to injuries to star guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and possibly mismanagement by the Blazers’ front office, they are well on their way to a losing season, and thanks to the new format, have the possibility of sneaking in as a 10-seed. Head coach Chauncey Billups is showing us that not every former point guard who was moderately good-to-great at basketball might not be a good head coach without any other coaching experience. With that said, Lillard and McCollum are this team, with the vast majority being Dame.

Lillard and McCollum are both ahead of incumbent Bucks’ nemesis Norman Powell in scoring, but he is the technical leader due to games played. Center Jusuf Nurkic is averaging double-digit rebounds, and guard Anfernee Simons, in a similar fashion to Powell, is leading in assists. The slightly younger and more talented, but less savvy version of PJ Tucker the Blazers’ have, aka Robert Covington, is leading in steals and blocks. Along with Lillard, Cody Zeller and Larry Nance Jr. are on the injury report.

@LA Clippers February 6th

As many of you know, the Clippers have been without Kawhi Leonard all season, and likely will be without him all season. They still had a superstar in Paul George, but then he’s been out and could very well miss this game. So, that means the Clippers have fallen, just like the Blazers, but on a much slower pace. The periphery of this roster has some nice pieces, such as Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka, Marcus Morris, Eric Bledsoe and Nicolas Batum, but without at least Paul George they aren’t a playoff-caliber team. I didn’t even mention other solid players like Ivica Zubac, Luke Kennard and Terance Mann, which could theoretically form a solid 10-man rotation, but this is what happens I guess when you let players like Leonard run organizations. As much as I’m not a LeBron supporter, all these players trying to copy him by coaching and general managing teams as well as playing, are showing they can’t do it. Giannis isn’t trying that at this point, thankfully.

So, with George out and disqualified from leaderboards, Reggie Jackson is the scoring leader. Eric Bledsoe is the choking assist and steals leader, where Zubac is the rebounds and blocks leader. Leonard and Jason Preston are guaranteed to be out, and George is unlikely as well.

Julie’s Prediction: 4-2

Okay, I thought about it, and I think getting predictions correct is more important than trying to shave games and getting the entire season correct. The Bucks may do that on their own anyways. So, I’m going with 4-2. No game in here is super hard, especially when you look at injuries, but no game is easy either. Portland may be the worst team, but it’s a long road trip. The Clippers may not have Paul George, but that’s a back-to-back. The Knicks are decent. The Wizards too. Denver is in the postseason for sure in the West. And that leaves the best team on this list, somehow, the Cavaliers. I think going 4-2 is just what typical champs do, coast until the All-Star break. Maybe we just aren’t used to it yet. What do you think? Vote and comment below!

Poll

What Will the Bucks’ Record Be During this Stretch?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    5-1 or 6-0 (Julie overestimated these teams)
    (66 votes)
  • 34%
    4-2 (Julie’s To-Be-Accurate Prediction)
    (52 votes)
  • 20%
    3-3 (It’s Actually Not As Bad As It Looks)
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    Under .500 (What Happened This Time?)
    (3 votes)
152 votes total Vote Now