Milwaukee Bucks: Next Five Games Could Determine Course Of The Season
No, the Bucks are in the midst of a strange and disappointing streak. After falling to the winless Mavericks Sunday night, the Bucks fell apart against another winless team, the previously 0-8 New Orleans Pelicans.
After starting the season with a surprising record of 4-2, the Bucks find themselves back at .500 with a daunting schedule ahead.
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The next five games (vs. Grizzlies, at Hawks, at Heat, vs. Warriors, vs. Magic) will see the young Bucks face off against teams with a combined 22-19 record, including four playoff teams from the previous season. On the year, the Bucks are 1-3 against last season’s playoff teams.
And while a few of those teams may be underachieving, on paper they look like they could be matchup nightmares.
Battles with Marc Gasol, the resurgent Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside and the shot blocking duo of Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo could prove to be too much for a Bucks team struggling to rebound and slow down opposing centers. In Milwaukee’s four losses, opposing bigs averaged 17.2 points and 12 rebounds a game.
And the one team that doesn’t have a dominant paint protector in their starting five, happens to be the team with the last three recipients of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, the Golden State Warriors.
It was the Bucks that famously broke up the Warriors 24-game unbeaten streak in Milwaukee, a team that will go in the history books for their record-setting season and blistering pace. This new-look Warriors team might just be the most prolific offense ever, and, unless lightning strikes twice, will likely be more than the Bucks can handle.
So if we project a loss to the Warriors as an inevitability, which games are must-win for Milwaukee?
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The Bucks need to defend home court against the disappointing Orlando Magic, one of the Eastern Conference bottom dwellers, and the only non-playoff team in the five-game tilt. A trip to south beach for a showdown with a struggling Heat team is another game the Bucks will have circled on their calendars. But Saturday’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies, who may be without big-name offseason acquisition Chandler Parsons, could set the tone for the next few weeks.
If Milwaukee can’t come away winning at least two of those matchups, which will put them a win ahead of last year’s pace, questions may arise about how to handle the rest of the year with one-eighth of the season in the book.
Should the Bucks continue to push for what would more than likely be one of the final spots in the 2017 playoffs? Teams like the Celtics, Pistons and Pacers are nipping at the heels of the Bucks in the standings. All three made the playoffs last year and could leapfrog the Bucks if they continue to struggle.
Or should they call this year a learning experience and hope to come back stronger next season?
With the return of Khris Middleton near season’s end, the assumed departure of Greg Monroe and what many consider a loaded 2017 draft class, many fans might want to put the 2016-17 season in the rearview in favor of streaking toward the lottery.