Unfortunately, it is the time of year now when the NBA season winds down, and within a few weeks, 14 NBA teams will be packing their bags and heading to the Caribbean, Hawaii, or wherever they feel like to unwind after a long season. Fortunately for us as fans, our fabulous 15 players will at least have two more weeks, although I believe it will be longer. In the past 50 seasons, 39 of the first teams to get to 50 wins made the NBA Finals, which is a 78% chance. That’s a good enough sample size for me to believe that the Bucks will be heading to the Finals.
We’ve now had a five year run under head coach Mike Budenholzer, and no season has seen the Bucks get fewer than 50 wins (or on pace for that with shortened seasons being involved), or lose their opening round playoff series. We’ve only made one NBA Finals, and one championship, and there is no other team in the NBA with that kind of run. Golden State has an extra Finals’ appearance, Denver has the 50 wins thing but has not made the Finals and has lost in the opening round, and the 76ers and Celtics aren’t there either. This half-decade has belonged to the Bucks, and let’s hope that we continue to keep it that way.
To wrap up the last forecast, the Bucks started off strong with a blowout win over the Spurs, so the Mamu revenge game was for naught. The Bucks continued blowing teams out by doing so to Utah’s backups. We then had the biggest game of the forecast in Denver, where we lost in blowout fashion. We followed it up with two wins against bad opponents, Detroit and Indiana, and then closed out with an awful loss to Boston. I don’t know if I’m worried about it, but I will say our three games against them this year haven’t been pretty.
Julie’s Prediction: 5-1 (53-24)
Bucks’ Record: 4-2 (55-22)
I’m creeping back into the mix for being perfect, but unfortunately for me I’m going to have them a few games worse than their actual record, barring a complete collapse. I did say last week that Denver was the most likely loss, and that losing another in that stretch was likely, but I wanted to get another game back (or be right) so I played the odds that way. And remember, we still have a two game lead over Boston.
To conclude the season, the Bucks have a home game against Philadelphia which will be impactful for seeding, and then head on the road to play the Wizards. We then finish up the home slate with two against the Bulls and Grizzlies, and end the season with a matinee game over the border in Toronto.
Injuries for the Bucks are likely going to stay about the same, with some taking rest days and some not. We know for sure Chicago won’t have Lonzo Ball or Javonte Green, Memphis won’t have Brandon Clarke or Steven Adams, and Toronto won’t have Otto Porter. Everybody else is entirely up in the air depending on resting and potential standings, so I won’t speculate otherwise. Philadelphia is at full health, but again, they may give a day or two off.
Sunday, April 2nd
7PM on Bally Sports WI
The 76ers lately have been playing better than Boston, and while I’m not exactly sure as to why, I do know that the large winning streak they had has been helpful for them. It’s not like Boston has been playing bad either, it’s just that the Bucks and 76ers have been crusading towards the finish line. I just hope we get the one seed so we don’t have to beat both of these teams, because to me a championship is a championship, whether we beat the Rockets and Spurs or the Celtics and 76ers to get it.
The Sixers are led by the lovable duo of Joel Embiid and James Harden, and the former has traditionally been more effective against the Bucks than the latter. They also have a few secondary scorers in Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey, and those guys have the potential to give our defense fits. Overall, this team almost worries me as much as Boston, if they are healthy and don’t have playoff Harden. But something just says to me that at some point, those two guys are going to break through whether together or separately. I hope I’m wrong, but they are both great players and are very good to not make the Finals.
At Washington Wizards
Tuesday, April 4th
7PM on Bally Sports WI
The Wizards are hanging around the play-in mixture, but overall I would say that they just aren’t a dangerous team even if they do make it. They have offense but no defense, and while the trio of Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma is a very underrated big three, there just are not a lot of threats here besides them. If one doesn’t play or we shut one of them down, they don’t have an alternative that is reliable. Maybe this is as good of a chance as any for the Wizards to see if former Badger Johnny Davis has the ability to succeed at the professional level.
I am a bit nervous as this is the first game of a back-to-back and is a road to home back-to-back, so the Bucks may be a bit chill during this one. The Bucks are also going to be very close to clinching by this point if they haven’t already, so it ultimately comes down to if they prefer to play more of the roster against Washington or against Chicago.
Wednesday, April 5th
630PM on ESPN & Bally Sports WI
The last game against the hated rivals, as they say south of the border (similar to the Bears’ fans). The Bulls have had our number this REGULAR season, and hopefully we will be able to turn that around in time for the playoffs. The Bulls are still in the mix at this point, but we all know they aren’t in the mix for the Finals.
Still, the Patrick Beverley addition for the Bulls has made a large difference. In his first 14 games in Chicago, the Bulls went 9-5. In the 59 games prior, the Bulls went 26-33. So, they definitely have been a different team, and his defense and leadership has really stabilized a team that many thought would “blow up the roster” during the trade deadline.
Of the potential first round opponents for the Bucks (Heat, Hawks, Bulls, Raptors), I’m sure we all can agree that the Bulls are least concerning. None of those teams aside from the myriad of bodies that Toronto randomly throws at him, nobody can stop Giannis. But the Bulls have the team least built for stopping him, and I think that’s why the Bucks so handedly downed the Bulls in round one last season. Sure, they have a winning record against us in this regular season, but I don’t think that qualifies the Bulls as a team we need to worry about.
Friday, April 7th
7PM on NBA TV & Bally Sports WI
I’m not sure what to think of Memphis. There was a stretch where Memphis was the hottest team in the West, even without Ja Morant, Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke, and a lot of that credit has to go to the depth this roster has. It didn’t even really affect how well they were doing, record-wise. With Ja being back at least, the Grizzlies have now moved back into the mix for possible Finals opponents for the Bucks, and I will admit that I was wrong to count them out so soon. To be fair, nobody knew what was going to happen with the Ja stuff, but now that we have clarity, I think Memphis is a favorite again.
Along with Morant, the duo of Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. have been All-Star caliber players. Jackson is the other front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year alongside Brook Lopez, whereas Bane has really taken on somewhat of a Khris Middleton role if Ja were Giannis. Tyus Jones was also essential off the bench to keep Memphis relevant during Ja’s absences, and Dillon Brooks has a lot to say, but he is a solid two-way player to round out their top five.
I still have confidence in 11 of Memphis’ players, that is not including the injured Adams or Clarke, so this team still has the ammo to pull off a solid run in the postseason. How they do in this game may not matter depending on resting, but the two seed for them or possibly the top seed for us could still be in play here, so we will have to see.
At Toronto Raptors
Sunday, April 9th
Noon on Bally Sports WI
To close out the regular season, in a game that we likely won’t play Giannis, Middleton, Holiday or Lopez, this game isn’t really going to have much of an impact. I don’t foresee this game being a tiebreaker game, or having any effect, for the Bucks, but for the Raptors it could definitely impact their seeding. Toronto is in the thick of the playoff race, and where exactly they are is going to depend on the games leading up to it.
Still, they have a lot to play for here, and their next game will likely be for their postseason lives, and if they get to play the Bucks (or the two seed) in the real postseason. When it comes down to the five teams still in the mix to play the Bucks in the first round, Toronto is the team that concerns me the most due to the ghost of the 2019 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. This team isn’t the same by any stretch aside from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, and the coaching staff, but they do have the bodies and the knowledge on how to attempt to contain Giannis.
Julie’s Prediction: 3-2
I’m going to end the season with an honest prediction, and go with a 3-2 record because these games aren’t the easiest as well as the possibility of some rest games leading up to the playoffs. That Philadelphia game is a nice test, but like Boston is not a dealbreaker on where we really are at. I think the games that I’m more looking at are the home games with Chicago and Memphis, particularly the game where we both have more players playing. That will tell the story about how the Bucks are feeling heading into the first round. What do you think? Vote and comment below.
What Will the Bucks’ Final Record Be?
This poll is closed
55-27 or 56-26 (That Ended Bad)
57-25 (Really Pushing Our Luck With Boston)
58-24 (I Agree With Julie)
59-23 or 60-22 (Going Hot Into the Postseason)