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Extended Forecast: Pack Your Bags, This is the Final Stretch

An Extended look at the next two weeks

Milwaukee Bucks v Minnesota Timberwolves
I Know, Too Much Dad Humor From Me
Photo by David Sherman/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?


I can’t believe the season is almost over, or in a sense, almost beginning. What a roller coaster ride it has been, with all of the COVID-19 stuff in December, Brook Lopez missing most of the season (but he’s back!), the Ibaka trade and losing at home to the Detroit Pistons and Lillard/McCollum-less Portland Trailblazers. It almost makes you wonder how this team is not hanging around Hawks’ territory, but nevertheless here we stand right in the mix with only 11 games to go. This is the second to last forecast of the season, and the last one is only going to be four games. So, this is basically it, the last 11 games starts now.

Now, when it comes to what happened last time, it got off to a good start. Going to Oklahoma City is never easy, but the Bucks sure made it look that way by winning handily. Following that, we came home and did SOMETHING similar to a disappointing Hawks’ team that should still make the play-in tournament. We then started off our (semi) final Western Conference road trip by taking on two of the top teams in Golden State and Utah and splitting the difference. After that, we went to Sacramento and got to reunite with Donte DiVincenzo, whose legacy I will continue to repeat is directly tied to Serge Ibaka’s postseason. The Bucks got a victory there, and then they unfortunately got swept by the Timberwolves, who I admit now are good. But, they didn’t have Giannis, and they also dealt with that skirmish involving the ejections of George Hill and Patrick Beverley. The good news? Pat Connaughton, George Hill and Brook Lopez returned during the week.

Julie’s 2021-22 Predicted Record: 47-24 (tied for first)

The Bucks’ Record: 44-27 (3 seed)

Yeah, so I got the prediction right again, since I suggested the Bucks would go 4-2. I stated the most likely loss was Utah, so good win, but then added that Golden State and Minnesota would be the next toughest. It’s also weird that we won both road games in Utah and Denver, yet lost at home to both. As for what is coming up, we start off with the reeling Bulls and Wizards. We then have a three-game road trip starting off against the Memphis Grizzlies, followed by Philadelphia and Brooklyn, so it’ll be a tough trip. Finally, we have our second-to-last homestand with two Western Conference foes, the LA Clippers and Dallas Mavericks. Let’s dive into the game-by-game.

Chicago March 22nd

We are 2-0 against the Bulls so far this season, which shows me they may not be ready for primetime yet. And, with Miami and Cleveland kind of separating from the pack, the 2-5 seeds in the East are all really jammed together. With two more games against the Bulls, and one more each against Philadelphia and Boston, the chances are there for the Bucks to move up in the standings. As for the Bulls, they have fallen out of their top spot (and sliding towards the play-in?), but they were doing too well to completely fall out like I thought they might in December. DeMar DeRozan isn’t an MVP, but he might be the best acquisition of the offseason. Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic are still doing their thing, and Alex Caruso is back in action as well after that scary fall that may or may not be a certain Buck’s fault (I would vastly defend any other Buck in this matter). Rookie Ayo Dosunmu has also taken on the starting role well for the Bulls in this time.

Like he has almost all season, Patrick Williams will likely be out but it’s no longer certain. Starting point guard Lonzo Ball will be out as well. Neither injury has really affected this team. DeRozan is averaging close to a 30-5-5 season, which is pretty rare for a shooting guard type, and Zach LaVine is also close to averaging 25 PPG. Vooch is averaging 18 and 11.5 RPG, and is also the steals and blocks leader. DeRozan is obviously the scoring leader, and also in assists. Coby White is also a major scoring contributor off the bench.

Washington March 24th

The Bucks are 1-1 against the Wizards, with each team winning the home game. Both games were before they traded Montrezl Harrell, Aaron Holiday, Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans, etc. for the likes of Ish Smith, Vernon Carey and of course Kristaps Porzingis. Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura were also not present, or just getting back, from major injuries that had kept them out all season. So, this is not the same team. With that said, the results are still the same, with them hanging around 5-10 games under .500 and not likely making even the play-in tournament. This team is a hodgepodge of what I think are decent-to-good players, but there just isn’t much chemistry and they might have the worst starting point guard in basketball (excluding injuries, a la Damian Lillard/Anfernee Simons and Portland or Chris Paul in Phoenix).

The good news for the Bucks is that they will not have Bradley Beal, who was having a down season but is still Bradley Beal. He would lead in scoring and almost double the lead in assists, but that goes to Kyle Kuzma officially. Kristaps Porzingis would lead in scoring, but has only played in 3 games. Kuzma also leads in rebounding, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in steals and Daniel Gafford in blocks. Kuzma and Vernon Carey may also miss this game due to injury.

@Memphis March 26th

Aside from losing Dillon Brooks for 3/4 of the season, and some time lost to players here and there, Memphis has really lucked out with injuries this season. Ja Morant may be out for this game, but it’s not a serious injury. That is part of what has led them to be this season’s Phoenix Suns en route to the second or third (depending on the current standings) best record in the league. Former Bucks’ assistant coach Taylor Jenkins, the man nobody knew when he was hired, is my pick for Coach of the Year. Ja Morant is my non-Giannis MVP. Memphis has just been incredible, but so far they still have yet to beat the Bucks. That could easily change this time, as the Grizz only played us once way back in January and lost 126-114.

Dillon Brooks will likely be available, and at this point there is nothing else to note on the injury report. Last time actually, Desmond Bane was the scoring leader (qualifying) but now Ja Morant is qualifying again and the leader at 27 or so per game. He also is leading in assists. Jaren Jackson Jr. is one of three Grizzlies averaging over one block per game, and is getting 2.2 himself. De’Anthony Melton leads in steals, and Steven Adams, the highest paid player but 10th leading scorer, leads in rebounding.

@Philadelphia March 29th

The 76ers came here and won in February with a 42-14-5 performance from Joel Embiid, and now they add James Harden to the mix. We beat them very early in the season in Philadelphia, and overall this game is just one of those where we will be fighting for position. I remember saying in our trade deadline roundtable that I don’t think that the 76ers actually got much better with the Harden-Simmons trade, if they even did at all. Seth Curry is kind of proving my point now in Brooklyn, and having to downgrade from Andre Drummond to DeAndre Jordan isn’t great either.

When it comes to injuries, Danny Green has been battling them since the James Harden trade but that’s about it. He might play too. Embiid is the scoring, rebounding, shot blocking and possibly assists leader on this team, with Harden technically leading but not qualifying, and Tyrese Maxey also being within point-one assists away from Embiid. Matisse Thybulle leads in steals. Lets also make sure we don’t forget about Tobias Harris and the impact he can have on a given night.

@Brooklyn March 31st

Like I said with the Sixers, the Nets I believe also did not get better. I think Ben Simmons is a net negative on a basketball court, Andre Drummond is redundant on a small-ball team with plenty of not completely washed up veteran big men, and Seth Curry is the youngest of a group of sixth-man-type scoring guards and can be overshadowed (he’s used to it). In our final game against the Nets this season, and after going 2-1 against them so far, we should be able to be fine here. They do have Kevin Durant back, and who knows what the vaccine mandate will be for Kyrie Irving since this game is in Brooklyn. Overall, this will be a nice test to see if the Nets really are dangerous in April and May.

Irving will be out if the mandate doesn’t change. Simmons is likely out but irrelevant anyway. Joe Harris is out for the season. LaMarcus Aldridge and David Duke are out until about a week before, then they will get an update. As for the leaderboards, only Patty Mills, Blake Griffin, Cam Thomas, Bruce Brown and James Johnson qualify. So, we’ll go by actual leaders. Durant leads in points, rebounds and assists, Brown is indeed the steals leader, and Nic Claxton leads in blocks.

LA Clippers April 1st

The Clippers have been doing okay without Paul George for all but 26 games, and with Kawhi Leonard “dealing with” an injury this season. Norman Powell also only played three games. And yet, they are above .500 at this time, and are basically cemented into the playoffs. Using that 8-10 man rotation that I talked about earlier in the season is paying off, and you can see that with the presence of at least two of those three injured players (possibly just one) they would be a threat. This is not a very exciting team without them, and the Bucks took care of business in Los Angeles earlier this season. Let’s also wave to Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye on the bench, and thank them for allowing us to obtain Serge Ibaka.

The Clippers have 13 different players as real contributors this season (10 games and 6 points per game minimum), and would have 14 if Powell didn’t get hurt. Powell, George, Leonard and Jason Preston will not play. Reggie Jackson leads in scoring and assists. Ivica Zubac leads in rebounds and Isaiah Hartenstein leads in blocks. Robert Covington leads in steals, but the guy on the display is Eric Bledsoe, who is injured and in Portland. C’mon, ESPN.

Dallas April 3

Dallas, Utah and Denver are all fighting for the four seed, and since the Bucks are 1-1 against the other two, and the Bucks actually beat Dallas on the road earlier this season. We won without Giannis too, as that was the pre-Christmas game on December 23rd. This also is our final game against the Western Conference until the Finals (or next season). They are the other end of the Porzingis trade I mentioned earlier, and they got two solid role players in Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans in return, along with more cap flexibility. I don’t mind this trade as much as other people did, and so far Dallas is showing it worked out for them. While Bertans is struggling (under 30% from the field), Dinwiddie is the second leading scorer and is third in assists.

With that said, this team is all about Luka Doncic, and former Bucks’ coach Jason Kidd has done an impressive job with this team. Luka leads them in points, rebounds, assists and steals (tied with Dorian Finney-Smith), and Maxi Kleber is the blocks leader. Jalen Brunson is the only other player averaging more than 11 points per game. Tim Hardaway Jr. will be out.

Julie’s Prediction: 4-3

I’m playing it safe here, and essentially going with the home/road split. None of these teams are easy, with the Wizards being the worst, and some of them are quite difficult like Memphis and Philly (even though I talked smack). Dallas, Chicago, Brooklyn and the Clippers are all playoff teams too. Plus, with all of the extra potential for rest days, dealing with nagging injuries, and all of these other teams jockeying for position, it just really is up in the air. If I had to say who we would beat right now, I would go with Washington, Philadelphia, the Clippers and Dallas. But, I don’t predict exact games, just what I think will happen overall.


Poll

What Will the Bucks’ Record Be This Forecast?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    5-2 or better
    (99 votes)
  • 25%
    4-3
    (42 votes)
  • 13%
    3-4
    (23 votes)
  • 2%
    2-5 or worse
    (4 votes)
168 votes total Vote Now