Bucks Lead

Bucks Sink Clippers for 14th Straight Victory

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Nothing deflates a wide-eyed evangelist faster than a mean old skeptic. Did evil demons cause the earthquake? Nope, it was tectonic plates. Was the uber-happy dance the cause of the Packers win? Sorry, it was Aaron Rodgers. However, the Bucks startling 119-91 triumph over the supposed finals contender LA Clippers on Friday silenced even the staunchest of Bucks naysayers. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 25th birthday was a 48-minute party for increasingly excitable Fiserv fanatics, and the game reinforced the Bucks’ leading candidacy for Eastern Conference champion.

Overcoming Obstacles

The first half was frustratingly reminiscent of the infamous Lakers-Kings con or the worst of Bucks-Cavs under Jason Kidd. Kawhi Leonard could scarcely breathe without drawing a foul as refs stole almost any Bucks opportunity for suspect reasons. This observation isn’t just Bucks Lead bias either; the usual boos seemed more pronounced. However, as crook and former ref Tim Donaghy discovered, refs can’t do much if one team is better than the other. The first half affirmed this reassuring notion as the Bucks gained control. An Antetokounmpo slam sealed a 30-15 first, and LA was already resorting to “regular season doesn’t matter” excuses.

 

Another notion the Bucks reinforced was the team-oriented nature of basketball. Uh, yeah, you say? Isn’t this a captain obvious idea? Consider, however, the unsuccessful ball-hogging of Russell Westbrook’s Thunder or LeBron James’ Cavs. By contrast, LA recorded 18 assists to Milwaukee’s 29, including Kyle Korver’s wicked dime to George Hill. (With a nasty hockey assist from Khris Middleton.)

 

A bit later, Antetokounmpo continued his 2019 dominance with an insane slam over Ivica Zubac. (Zubac should’ve watched Antetokounmpo’s Metro PCS commercial and guarded someone else.)

After the remaining freelance-time fans serenaded the Greek God with a happy birthday, Antetokounmpo analyzed the game. Repeatedly, he emphasized aggressiveness, observing, “since the year started, I’ve been on a mission to help my team win every night.” However, the Bucks are far more than Antetokounmpo. “I think we realize what we got as a team,” he noted. “It’s not a one-man team, it’s not a two-man team, it’s not a three-man team, it’s a team. I think we showed that tonight.”

Considering the impressiveness of an essentially 30-point, 14th straight win, what do the Bucks need to return to the finals for the first time since 1974?

Deep Breath

The Bucks probably need to win 52 more games to win the east: 40 to reach 60 wins and likely home-court, and 12 playoff conquests. Imagine, for a moment, Antetokounmpo leaps into Middleton’s arms as confetti rains down in Fiserv Forum, after Milwaukee defeats Toronto in five. Ah, nice fantasy. However, daydreams don’t make sense out of context. The six months separating the Bucks from the finals promise incredible basketball in the world’s best sports league. Until June, Bucks fans should soak in every win, every dunk, and every opponent’s broken will. So, each time Brook Lopez wins the tip, acknowledge another step taken on the path to a new Milwaukee basketball glory doubters can’t steal from an impassioned city’s soul.

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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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