The Milwaukee Bucks took one on the chin Saturday night in prime time against the Golden State Warriors, falling in defeat 122-109. What’s even more concerning than the loss is that Warriors superstar Stephen Curry scored just eight points. Curry was on the floor for a total of 35 minutes. That statistic should worry Bucks fans heading into their last 14 regular-season games.
Milwaukee has been up and down much of the year, scrolling through the Eastern Conference standings like a Twitter feed. At one point earlier this season, they’d fallen into the play-in range of the standings but clawed their way all the way up to first place in the east briefly. They currently sit in second place behind the Miami Heat by 2.5 games with about a month remaining until the postseason.
While many fans and talking heads are calling for a Bucks repeat, I don’t think it’s quite that simple. The breaks the Bucks got last year don’t usually happen in consecutive seasons. Milwaukee took advantage of facing a wounded Miami squad last year who, in the prior postseason, took care of the Bucks in five games when at full strength. Sure, Jrue Holiday wasn’t with the Bucks for that 2020 playoff (Orlando bubble) series, but neither was Victor Oladipo, who recently made his long-awaited return for Miami. If the Bucks and Heat matchup in the playoffs this year both at full strength, it’ll be night-night time for Milwaukee.
Then everyone remembers last year’s series against the Brooklyn Nets where Kevin Durant almost single-handedly defeated the Bucks in seven games. That big toe of Durant’s turned out to be the Nets’ undoing, but that wasn’t even a series until Kyrie Irving went down with an ankle injury. James Harden also tweaked his hamstring in the first game of the series about a minute into that game. Milwaukee even had trouble with Atlanta until a referee got in the way, and Trae Young twisted his ankle in game three of the eastern conference finals. I doubt this year’s path to Finals will be paved in gold again for the Bucks.
But there is help on the way for Milwaukee. Brook Lopez is expected to make his return in the next few days. Lopez has been out pretty much all year with a back injury that required surgery in December. They’ve missed his presence inside, which was evident against Golden State Saturday as Milwaukee lost the points in the paint battle 36-32. Brook’s return can’t come soon enough, although I’m not sure how much to expect out of him coming back just four months after back surgery. George Hill is also expected back along with Lopez, which will undoubtedly help round out their playoff roster.
Even with that good fortune, don’t expect another miracle postseason run from these Bucks based solely on those additions to the lineup. This non-big three cashed in their chips last summer, and their luck is due to run out by the end of May. There is no repeat in the future of the Bucks, and you can refer back to this when these words materialize. It’s alright, Bucks fans, you got your one, and that’s all you get. This isn’t a big three, nor are they a dynasty in waiting.