Bucks Lead

Bucks Can’t Cruise to No. 1 Seed Just Yet

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Staying Cautiously Optimistic 

Both the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks have been taking turns tripping over their own feet in the race for the #1 seed. Now, the sprint is officially on with 14 games to play.

The Bucks have a nice three-game cushion plus the tiebreaker over Toronto. With that being the case with so few games left, one may think it would take a huge collapse for Milwaukee to cede the throne of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Still, anything can happen in 14 games. Below we break down the remaining schedules for both teams, looking at home vs. away games, opponents, and those dreaded back-to-backs that have been a thorn in the side for Milwaukee as of late.

Putting Things Into Perspective

Each time the Bucks have lost a game, — including their first two-game losing streak of the season — the Raptors have blown their chance to close the gap. It took until March 4th for the Bucks to lose consecutive games. That is absolutely ridiculous. It also happened to secure the 16-win Phoenix Suns a season sweep of the Bucks. Ironically, it also made it so the Suns became the only team in the NBA to beat Milwaukee twice this season. The NBA is a crazy league. Luckily, Giannis and co. won’t have to face the powerhouse Suns in the playoffs (laying the sarcasm on thick there, but the Suns just beat Golden State too, so tip of the cap, Phoenix).

Anyway, for comparison, the Raptors have lost consecutive games four times this season, plus had one three-game losing streak. Still impressive, but it makes what the Bucks are doing in comparison that much more awe-inspiring.

Classic Fan Overreaction

The fans in Cream City get a little worked up after each loss as if the sky is falling: “DO NOT pay Middleton this offseason, he’s horrible and never shows up in big games,” “Coach Bud’s rotation is terrible,” “Gasol has ruined our chemistry,” or “Why is Ersan even playing?” (As for that last one, I can’t say I haven’t had the same thought, but it is entertaining watching him trying to draw a charge on every single defensive possession).

But that’s what happens when we get spoiled in a way we’ve never seen, and in a timeframe nobody could predict. Even Giannis confessed he did not think having the best record in the league was feasible this quickly. So for the fans that get all bent out of shape after a loss — when we’re suddenly gifted with a feeling of invincibility — I totally get it. All I can do is breathe, remind myself of some of the absurd things the team has done this season, and go with the ol’ cliché of “you can’t win ‘em all.”

Ok, So What About Those Remaining 14 Games

This article is not to disregard the Sixers, the Celtics, or even the Pacers. Anyone of these teams could get hot and come out of the East this year. This is just focusing on winning the #1 seed for the playoffs, not an NBA Finals prediction.

Raptors

Home Games– 7

Away Games– 7

Back-to-BacksONLY ONE– March 17th/18th: @ DET, vs. NYK

Recent Slip-Ups– Mainly just a blowout loss to Cleveland. However, that single loss on their record might not be nearly as significant as losing Serge Ibaka for three games after some frustration punches were thrown. Not the type of distraction a team needs fighting for home court advantage.

Key Games Remaining–  A home-and-home series against Oklahoma City, a team fighting for their own playoff positioning in a jam-packed Western Conference.

Other than that, the Raptors don’t have anyone else on their schedule that they won’t be favored to win by a decent margin. That includes two games left against both the lowly Knicks and Bulls.

Bucks

Home Games- 9

Away Games– 5

Back-to-Backs- THREE!– Seriously, the Bucks have three back-to-backs left. I’m not going to list all of them, but how did this happen? This is not good.

Recent Slip-Ups– Blowing a sizable first half cushion in San Antonio, which was the second game of a back-to-back. Losing to Phoenix at the tail end of a long trip out West. And, again, having a decent lead but ultimately running out of gas and losing to a good Utah team in what was (can you guess?) the second game of a back-to-back.

Key Games Remaining– The Sixers twice, Rockets, Clippers, and the last game of the season with OKC coming to town (time will tell if this game will matter in the standings). Oh, and the other key games, hmmmm, I’ll take ALL THREE BACK-ENDS OF THE BACK-TO-BACKS for 400, Alex!!! (Seriously, Trebek is the man. Wishing that guy the best in his fight. I mean who doesn’t like Jeopardy?)

Cautious Optimism is the Best Approach

Take a look at that and tell me you are feeling safe about holding on to the top seed. Not only do the Raptors play inferior opponents but they have one, compared to our three (insert what you know I’m about to say). Theoretically, the Bucks could split with the Sixers, lose to Houston, LAC, OKC, and/or take a couple other random set-backs given their remaining schedule.

Meanwhile, the Raps could split with OKC and it’s completely within the realm of possibility that they run the rest of the table. I’m not saying this is likely, I’m just saying that it could happen. And I’m trying to prepare myself as a pessimistic Wisconsin sports fan.

So if the Bucks end up as the #2 seed, would it really be them choking it away? I actually think it would be entirely reasonable. But as mentioned before, all you can do is breathe, remind yourself of some of the absurd things the team has done this season, and go with the ol’ cliché of “you can’t win ‘em all.”

*I’m sorry but I have to mention, you play ZERO back-to-backs in the playoffs.

So, let’s be cautiously optimistic that this special team can hang on and finish off this spectacular regular season in the only way that makes sense- The #1 seed and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. “Light it Up, Light it Up!”

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About Dan Parker

Born and raised in the greater Milwaukee area. Graduated from UW-Parkside with a B.S. in Sports and Fitness Management. Avid Wisconsin sports fan, currently residing just outside of Detroit.

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