The Milwaukee Bucks have an opportunity to end what is currently the longest playoff series win drought in the NBA.
It is spring of 2001, the Bucks are rolling, headed to the Eastern conference finals after sweeping the Orlando Magic and coming from behind to defeat the Charlotte Hornets.
The Bucks fell to the top-seeded, Allen Iverson-led Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern conference finals, just one game short of an NBA Finals appearance.
16 years later, the Milwaukee Bucks have yet to get back to the Eastern conference finals, let alone win a single playoff series. They returned to the playoffs in ’03, ’04, ’06, ’10, ’13, and ’15, but have come up empty every time. 2017 could be the year this infamous drought comes to an end.
The Bucks (42-40) started out strong, but fell completely out of the playoff hunt during the month of February and appeared lottery bound with just 30 games remaining. They hit their lowest point of the season when Jabari Parker fell awkwardly in a game against the Miami Heat. This fall ended up being his second-torn ACL in just three seasons, raising many questions surrounding his future as a professional basketball player.
On March 1st, the Bucks were still seven games under .500 with 23 games remaining. The month of March flipped the script however, turning out to be one of the best months the Bucks have ever had in franchise history, finishing the month with an NBA-best 14-3 record.
Milwaukee faces a tough task playing a team that has had them numbered for quite some time. The Toronto Raptors took three out of four regular season games, and the one Bucks win came against a Lowry-less Raptor team.
Nevertheless, the Bucks still pose a major threat to pull off a first-round upset. Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the factor that can push the Bucks over the top. Giannis has averaged 24.8 points (56% FG), 7.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.3 steals across 35.8 minutes per game in four contests with the Raptors this season.
The Bucks will need to contain Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (combined 45.3 PPG vs. Bucks this season) if they hope to come out with a series victory. This lethal backcourt has destroyed the Bucks in recent years, winning 13 of 15 against Milwaukee.
Bucks rookies Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker are ready to get their feet wet in the NBA postseason, but we do not know how Bucks head coach Jason Kidd will handle his rotations. Brogdon has solidified himself in the Bucks rotation and remains a top candidate for Rookie of the Year, but Maker has yet to find consistent playing time. Maker recorded 34 starts out of 57 appearances this season but still averages just under 10 minutes per game. Guarding Jonas Valanciunas (12 PPG, 9.5 RPG this season) will be a true test for Maker and other Bucks bigs (Greg Monroe, John Henson, Spencer Hawes), so it will be interesting to see how Kidd distributes minutes at the center position. Kidd has occasionally opted to go small, putting Giannis at the five. Having the Greek Freak at the five may force Raptors head coach Dwane Casey to play small as well, keeping Valanciunas on the bench.
Game 1 (4/15): Milwaukee @ Toronto, 4:30 PM CT, ESPN
Game 2 (4/18): Milwaukee @ Toronto, 6 PM CT, NBA TV
Game 3 (4/20): Toronto @ Milwaukee, 7 PM CT, NBA TV
Game 4 (4/22): Toronto @ Milwaukee, 2 PM CT, TNT
Game 5 (4/24, if nec.): Milwaukee @ Toronto, 6 PM CT, NBA TV
Game 6 (4/27, if nec.): Toronto @ Milwaukee, TBA, TBA
Game 7 (4/29, if nec.): Milwaukee @ Toronto, TBA, TNT