The final 11 games are here, with the first six being in this forecast. This is the last multiple-city road trip the Bucks will take this season, and being someone who isn’t used to May basketball yet and loves the winter evenings getting to stay home, go somewhere to watch, or even go to the old Bradley Center, this makes me a bit sad. I still remember watching them play the Spurs, Raptors, Pacers, 76ers, and a few other teams in person. That was what I looked forward to as a 10, 11, even 15 or 16-year-old... so it makes me sad when the season winds down. Yes, I’m excited about the playoffs, but what are we going to do for five months or so in between Bucks basketball? We still have 11 games, and I think that the stretch the Bucks just had, as well as the upcoming one, has been a gauntlet of Finals previews.
I only think four teams have a realistic shot of making it out of the Western Conference, and I’m only including Denver because they have the top seed. The Kings looked really good on Monday for those who stayed up to watch, and the Suns hung around without Kevin Durant. Golden State has a puncher’s chance at the Finals by default, but they also have been finding themselves a bit as of late and could be scary for a team like Sacramento or Memphis in the first round. Lastly, I don’t believe in Denver, but I’ll throw them in the mix as well.
As for why the rest of the West is not involved, Memphis was my favorite before the Ja Morant stuff and Brandon Clarke’s injury, but now they are done. The Clippers are dysfunctional and Russell Westbrook doesn’t help them. The Lakers have dangerous potential but they are not going to win three road series, assuming they make it through the play-in. Minnesota is Minnesota. Dallas has fallen apart but could be another dangerous team for someone like Denver. Who else is there? Utah? New Orleans? It’s down to those four teams in the Finals, and I guarantee one of them will face the Bucks in the Finals.
So let’s see how I did last forecast...
Julie’s Prediction: 6-1 (48-23)
The Bucks’ Record: 5-2 (51-20)
I successfully got one game closer to the Bucks’ actual record on my season tally, but I’m still three short with 11 to go. It’s going to be tricky for those two to align given the Bucks’ hopes of maintaining the one seed. The one that’s definitely over is my 55-27 prediction for the Bucks’ record after the break, since they are going to be significantly better than 4-7 in the last three weeks of the season.
During that forecast, the Bucks started off by heading to Orlando and defeating the Magic, followed by beating the Nets’ bench at home in one of the weirdest games of the season. Both of those victories were without Giannis, and they then packed their bags to head out West to play Golden State during primetime. That game they lost in overtime, without Giannis again, but then going to Sacramento and Phoenix, the Bucks looked impressive taking down two of the best in the West. They then returned home to kick off a three-game homestand against Indiana, and in my first game at Fiserv Forum and they blew a double-digit lead to a bad team (also, see my review of Fiserv after the regular post). Finally, they played a Sunday night game against Toronto and defeated them with a big return from Brook Lopez.
As for the next forecast, the Bucks do start off at home against the Spurs, who are the worst team in the NBA, even if they don’t have the worst record. Houston is set up much better for future success at this point, and I would argue Detroit is as well. Following that is a four-game road trip, starting in the Mountain Time Zone with Utah (who has regressed to the mean as I projected) as well as the West’s best in Denver. They then finish off the road portion of the divisional games, with a game at Detroit and then at Indiana. The Bucks wrap up the forecast and month in a big way with their third and final (tiebreaker) game against Boston. Because of how short the last forecast would be otherwise and the two-day break following the home game with Boston, I moved their Sunday game against Philadelphia into the next forecast. Here is the game-by-game breakdown.
San Antonio Spurs
Wednesday, March 22nd
7PM on Bally Sports WI
Uh-oh. This is a game where we have to visit our old demons, bad decisions, and possible franchise-altering moves. Yes, we get the return of Sandro Mamukelashvili and the San Antonio Spurs. Aside from the revenge game, this really shouldn’t be that interesting of a basketball game, although I am a bit concerned after the Nwora/Hill revenge game.
The Bucks have not beaten this team yet, and that is another demon they need to check off that list. When the Bucks lost to the Spurs, they were in the midst of a 1-16 stretch early in the season, and yes, that win they had was against the Bucks. I went back to that box score, and that was a game where four players who are no longer with the Bucks got significant action. Mamu was playing in that game, Jordan Nwora was starting, George Hill came off the bench, and Serge Ibaka had his best game of the season. Even that roster, though, should have had a chance against this Spurs squad, because man, they just don’t look like a good club.
When it comes to the Spurs, this team is all about the future. Looking into next season, the Spurs don’t have any untradeable contracts (and a few solid ones that are worth trading for), or any really bad deals. Khem Birch is their most overpaid player at $6 million, and Devonte Graham (who is third in scoring) is their second-highest paid. Aside from a Devin Vassell extension, they really don’t have much to do aside from hoping Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson falls to them.
I haven’t talked about the game much, and that’s because aside from Mamu’s return and getting revenge on the worst loss of the season, there really isn’t anything here to say. The Bucks will win this one.
At Utah Jazz
Friday, March 24th
8PM on Bally Sports WI
Danny Ainge tried his best to get a bad team in Utah, and while the wheels are finally coming off the wagon a bit, the Jazz are too good to get any real chance at the top two picks in the draft. On the bright side, they found a future building block in Lauri Markkanen, a pair of nice rookies in Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji, and a duo of score-first guards in Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton. Those players, plus a boatload of draft picks, are still likely going to bring this team back to relevancy at some point.
The Bucks beat the Jazz earlier in the season when they were still pretending to be a good team, and frankly, if you were to take away that hot start the Jazz would be a solid 10 or so games under .500. Regardless, this team is not a real match for the Bucks. The only thing to be concerned about here is the back-to-back with Denver and Milwaukee's historical struggles in Utah.
At Denver Nuggets
Saturday, March 25th
8PM on Bally Sports WI
In a matchup between the top seeds in each conference, the Bucks go to Denver to test what they are really made of. Playing at the best team in the West, in the altitude, on the second night of a back-to-back is one of the most challenging games of the season. Denver has an MVP favorite in Nikola Jokic, and after missing him last time, I don’t feel like Milwaukee will this time.
Denver has a quality supporting cast as well, with a few players who may make an All-Star game at some point in Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and Michael Porter Jr. They brought in Reggie Jackson from the LA Clippers via Charlotte on the buyout market, and I expect he’ll have a bigger impact than Goran Dragic, Milwaukee’s buyout signing. The thing that surprises me the most about this game though is that it is not being nationally televised in spite of it being the NBA’s two best teams.
I haven’t picked against the Bucks in a while, and I really don’t trust Denver when it comes to making the Finals, but I feel like this is the perfect scenario for a loss, especially if Middleton doesn’t play in this back-to-back. Milwaukee definitely can beat Denver, but don’t get worked up if they lose, as this is a very losable game.
At Detroit Pistons
Monday, March 27th
6PM on NBA TV & Bally Sports WI
The Pistons are the worst team in the East. Although the Hornets are in the vicinity and the Pacers might have a roster that rivals how bad the Pistons’ is, nobody matches Detroit. Especially without Cade Cunningham, and now Isaiah Stewart, for the season. Detroit’s big three going into this game is going to be Bojan Bogdanovic, rookie Jaden Ivey, and maybe Alec Burks? James Wiseman? Another rookie in Jalen Duren? I really have no idea.
Detroit is kind of playing a similar game that Philadelphia played about seven or eight years ago now when they drafted Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor in subsequent drafts. Obviously, it worked since Embiid is one of the league’s best players not named Giannis, but Okafor is out of the league and Noel was just waived by these Pistons not too long ago. The Pistons are doing the same with Duren, Wiseman, Stewart, and Bagley, hoping at least one of them sticks.
Aside from that drama and the hopes for a backcourt of Cunningham and Ivey paired with Victor Wembanyama, there really isn’t a lot to cheer for in Motown. The good news? Another long season for what has become one of the worst organizations in the NBA is almost over, and they get to find out if Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, or someone else will be joining the division.
Real quick, for those who don’t believe me about them being a bad organization, Detroit has made two very quick first-round exits since the 2008-09 season, and that’s it. That is the same year that they traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. This is no longer a basketball powerhouse and frankly hasn’t been since Rasheed Wallace (and Iverson) left following that season.
At Indiana Pacers
Wednesday, March 29th
6PM on Bally Sports WI
Okay, I really hope they beat this team this time because it would be depressing if the Bucks get blown out again by a trio of TJ McConnell, Aaron Nesmith, and Andrew Nembhard. That loss was another bad one, but when we think about how every team has bad losses, this one doesn’t hurt as bad. In fact, I’m only really upset about it because it was during my first Bucks game in five or so years.
I think the Pacers are overmatched, or definitely should be, and the Bucks should be able to defeat this team without any real trouble. I don’t know, I just don’t feel like writing about them after what happened.
Thursday, March 30th
630 PM on TNT
This game is a big deal, believe it or not. This game will determine the tiebreaker between the Bucks and Celtics, which could possibly be something factoring into the standings by the time this forecast winds down. As we get further and further down this season’s path, the Celtics and 76ers seem like they are going to be destined to meet each other in the conference semifinals. But that isn’t a guarantee and having the tiebreaker is important for Milwaukee.
This game may have both teams at full health. After the Bucks went to TD Garden and got blown out on Christmas Day (while dealing with a few injuries), the Celtics came to Milwaukee, didn’t play a few of their key players as well, and almost won. In other words, both of those games are essentially worthless in terms of how these teams will look in the playoffs. This game could be a way to help Milwaukee with postseason seeding, though.
Julie’s Prediction: 5-1
I really don’t think the Denver game is going to be a win. Not that Milwaukee isn’t better than Denver, but they just are in a bad spot to face them (and Denver happens to be really good as well). The 9-1 record in back-to-back games is a bit fluky I think, but also a testament to the Bucks. Either way, this just seems like one to bring them back down a bit. The Bucks may take a “day off” against the Spurs, Pacers, or Pistons, so who knows what it will look like. I wouldn’t be surprised with 6-0, but it just doesn’t seem realistic, and they may be a bit on cruise control at this point, depending on the standings. I also think going 7-4 should all but seal the deal for the one seed, especially if they beat Boston and/or Philadelphia. To catch them, it would require 9-2 from Philadelphia or 9-1 from Boston, which I think is improbable. 7-4 is VERY doable. What do you think? Vote and comment below.
How Will the Bucks Do This Forecast?
This poll is closed
5-1 or 6-0 (Julie’s Correct Prediction or Better)
4-2 (Realistic and NOT Concerning)
2-4 or 3-3 (Autopilot Mode)
1-5 or worse (WHAT HAPPENED?)
Okay, so here are three things I liked and disliked about Fiserv Forum that I feel were different (or not as memorable) about the Bradley Center. Overall I enjoyed my experience, and I’ve never been to a Bucks game that had half of that audience, so it was nice to be around those fans.
1) The stairs on the second level
2) Not being able to pay with cash everywhere
My two main complaints—and the first one is more of a fear-related thing and the second is more practical—is that I don’t like the stairs being that steep with limited ability to grip something. I was terrified going down and up, as well as trying to scoot through the aisle. I’m just glad I was sober.
As far as the payment goes, I didn’t like that I had to download an app, and update all of that information, just to get a popcorn box. It literally took me five to ten times as long to do all of that as it did for them to get me my popcorn.
1) The dancing old people
2) Food selection
I did like the options though, aside from Chick-fil-A which I will get to in a minute, but there were a lot of good choices. I tried the Klements test site as well as the popcorn, and it was better than the Bradley Center.
I also really enjoyed the dancing old people during their halftime show or whenever it was. I don’t know why, I just found it cute and they looked like they were having a blast.
I don’t like that Chick-fil-A is in a stadium where they claim to be LGBT-friendly. Chick-fil-A is a notoriously anti-LGBT establishment, and if you really are serious about being LGBT-friendly, you wouldn’t have them in the stadium. I do appreciate all of the gender-friendly spaces, but it just shows a bit of insincerity or a bit of unawareness on somebody’s part. It’s not a deal breaker as far as liking the Bucks or anything like that, but hopefully, it can be resolved at some point.