Bucks Lead

Bucks Continue Race for East’s Top Seed

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2018 summertime thrilled Milwaukee fans with the Brewers in a “pennant race”. That excitement has rolled over quite nicely into the NBA winter. With both the Raptors and Bucks winning Sunday, Milwaukee sits tied in the loss column, but with three fewer wins. This puts the Bucks 1.5 games back, and 2.0 ahead of #3 Indiana. Granted, seeding isn’t quite as important in basketball with no wild card game. But the thrilling two animal-mascot race is still a surprise adventure for fans used to sleepwalks to #8.

Home-Road Disparity

With a home record of 19-4 and road mark of just 11-8, home court appears to be vital for a deep Bucks playoff run. That’s why if the Bucks want to reach their first finals since 1974 (and let’s please not settle for one series win), earning four out of seven Forum fights would help immensely. And those numbers don’t lie. Listen as the home crowd goes wild after each Giannis basket, even in a January ho-hum Jazz matchup.

And this excitement isn’t some macro-sociological manifestation. It’s the culmination of tens of thousands of individual fans who add another voice. And this effort is much appreciated.

But the road results aren’t the same, and this is partially by design. Several of LeBron’s east championship teams cruised to the 2-seed while resting starters, correctly assuming effort could be flipped on later. Perhaps that’s why Giannis sat out Friday’s disappointing loss in Washington. Afterward, a fatigued Khris Middleton candidly admitted the obvious– the deer sure could have used the Greek Freak.

Trail To Improvement

While inconsistency can’t be fixed in one game, Giannis returned with an easy opportunity against the last place defense. The Bucks smartly conserved energy with a very slow pace against a Hawks team barely trying this season. Hoop by hoop he registered 33 points, and added a wicked behind-the-back assist (3:00 mark).

The good news is settling for #2 still works so long as Milwaukee finds its rhythm in the remaining 21 road battles. Elite teams can win on the road too, as proved by impressive game seven wins in Boston and Houston by Cleveland and Golden State, respectively. In the Bucks’ December visit to Toronto, the Raptors concluded their 99-104 loss by listlessly dribbling out the clock. Perhaps they already know the only action worth taking while facing Milwaukee’s relentless drive to the finals is to just get out of the way.

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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