ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — The Milwaukee Bucks understand the end is likely near. No team in NBA history has ever rallied to win a playoff series after dropping the first three games, let alone trying to do it against the powerhouse Miami Heat.
But don’t expect the Bucks to fold up and pack for vacation just yet. Milwaukee expects to come to play Sunday afternoon for Game 4 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, trying to extend the series and head back to Miami for Game 5.
“It’s been a long season, we’ve worked really hard,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “Our guys deserve to play hard for each other, for themselves, for the fans, for everyone. We are not going to hang our heads. We aren’t going to feel sorry for ourselves. We knew coming in this was going to be a tough series. We are going to keep battling and play as hard as we can and hopefully we can put some long stretches together and come out with a win.”
The Bucks made the effort level for Sunday’s Game 4 a topic of discussion prior to Friday afternoon’s practice at the Cousins Center, but time will tell if the message got through.
“Just keep reminding our guys to stay positive, keep pushing, keep fighting and expect it to be a battle,” Bucks center Larry Sanders said.. “Expect them to go on runs, expect to be down, things like that. Just keep pushing and don’t be discouraged when it happens because that’s when we fall apart.”
Miami’s ability to play at a championship level and capitalize on any mistakes from their opponent can turn a two-point game into a 16-point game in no time at all. Because of the difference in talent, if Miami pushes hard, the Bucks have to push twice as hard to overcome it.
“They have a switch, they can turn it on,” Bucks center Larry Sanders said. “You can’t get rattled. I think a lot of teams get rattled when they keep pushing and pushing. Teams that push back make it a game. We have to really try to push back. It’s going to be difficult because it’s our fourth game and it could be our last game, hopefully guys don’t want it to be our last game.”
Even if Milwaukee’s season comes to an end Sunday without a playoff win, the Bucks will have felt they got something out of their first round series with the Heat, especially the younger core players that will be with the organization in the future.
The unselfishness of Miami has stuck with Sanders, as he witnesses firsthand the sacrifices members of the Heat make on a daily basis to be a part of a special team.
“I’m learning a lot,” Sanders said. “It’s a really good experience because you learn you have to sustain a certain energy level, every possession or it can quickly get out of hand. Guys start knocking down shots, Ray hit two 3’s to end the first half yesterday that really set us back, and it was all because of our effort.
“You learn you can’t make those mistakes. Especially in situations like this.”