The Milwaukee Bucks are in the thick of a playoff race in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks could realistically land anywhere between the third seed and the eighth seed when the season comes to a close in mid-April.
Milwaukee is currently a couple of games into a stretch of facing seven of eight games against teams in the playoffs. The lone exception in this stretch is the Detroit Pistons, they’re currently the first team out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The Bucks have 23 games remaining on their schedule. Those games can be broken down into four different categories: toss up, no business losing, likely loss, and borderline between two of the other categories.
The category with the most games remaining is ‘toss up’. The Bucks have nine of these contests remaining, they also have a pair of games that borders between ‘toss up’ and ‘likely loss’. There are currently eight games that Milwaukee has no business losing, and three games that Milwaukee will likely lose for various reasons.
Here’s how the schedule breaks down, with the specific reasons as to why that game is listed in a certain category:
| vs Washington, 2/27 – The Wizards have been one of the NBA’s hottest teams as of late, going 8-3 since All-Star guard John Wall went down with a knee injury. Both teams are entering the game with one day of rest. The Wizards are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
| @ Detroit, 2/28 – The Bucks are the better team in this game without a doubt, however things can get crazy when one the second night of a back-to-back, especially when travel is involved. Milwaukee does have the best record in the NBA on the second night of a back-to-back this season at 9-3. Detroit will be playing their third game in four days, however they will be off on the 27th.
| vs Indiana, 3/2 – The Pacers and Bucks could potentially be matching up with each other in the first round of the playoffs. This game is the third game in four days for Milwaukee. The Pacers will be halfway through a four-game road trip; however they should be riding a six-game winning streak entering this game. As of this writing the Pacers have won four straight games and play at Dallas and Atlanta – two teams that are firmly in the race for the No. 1 overall pick – before hosting Milwaukee.
| vs Philadelphia, 3/4 – The 76ers are currently fighting for playoff positioning at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They’ve been a much better team when center Joel Embiid is in action. Milwaukee defeated Philadelphia back in interim head coach Joe Prunty’s first week while Embiid was not on the floor. This game will be the third game in four nights for the 76ers, however they are off the night before and Embiid should be on the floor barring something unforeseen. Philadelphia is 29-18 when Embiid plays this season and just 3-8 without him in the lineup.
| @ Indiana, 3/5 – It’s tough to face a team twice in a three day stretch. It makes things even more difficult when it’s on the second night of a back-to-back and the fifth game in seven days for Milwaukee. On Indiana’s side of things, they are also on the second night of a back-to-back. The Pacers from this point on do not have more than one day off in between games for the rest of the season.
| vs LA Clippers, 3/21 – The Clippers are a team fighting for playoff contention out in the Western Conference. Guard Lou Williams has been lighting it up out west for them and they’re currently a game behind the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the conference. LA is on the second night of a back-to-back in this, having to face Minnesota the night before. The Bucks will have the day off before this game, having faced the Cleveland Cavaliers two days prior.
| vs San Antonio Spurs, 3/25 – The Spurs have had to endure a season without star forward Kawhi Leonard and have still managed to stay above water at third place in the Western Conference. A win here by Milwaukee would surprise no one, however a loss to the Spurs would be far from shocking as well.
| @ LA Clippers, 3/27 – Everything that’s above about the Clippers holds true, however in this case things might be tougher for the Bucks. This game is the first on the start of a west coast trip that could be rather daunting for Milwaukee. The Clippers, as stated above, are a talented team, with a record of 16-12 at home. Again, this could be a win, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if the Bucks lost this game.
| @ Los Angeles Lakers, 3/30 – The Lakers are without a doubt the least talented team on this list. The reason that this game could go either way is everything surrounding it. The Bucks will be on the second night of a back-to-back – having faced the Golden State Warriors the night before – and their third game in four nights. The Lakers have also been much tougher at home as of late, having won their last nine games at the Staples Center. The fast pace of the Lakers also makes for a tough matchup on the second night of a back-to-back.
| @ Philadelphia, 4/11 – This game is the last of the regular season for both teams, and much of the outcome depends on who plays and what has already been decided in terms of playoff seeding.
| vs Houston, 3/7 – The Rockets are currently sporting the best record in the NBA and this game closes out the toughest stretch of the season for the Bucks. Milwaukee will be playing its eighth game in 12 days against potential playoff teams. The Rockets will be on the second night of a back-to-back, which bodes well for the Bucks, but that’s the only thing they have going their way in the matchup.
| @ Golden State, 3/29 – The Warriors may not have the best record in the NBA at this point in the season for the first time in a long time, but they still have the most talent. Oracle Arena is a notoriously tough place to play and the Bucks haven’t matched up well with them over the past few seasons. It would be quite the surprise for Milwaukee to pull off the upset.
| vs Boston, 4/3 – This game would be the least surprising win for the Bucks in this category, but there are plenty of reasons why this should be a loss for Milwaukee. The Celtics haven’t been playing their best basketball as of late, but they still hold the best defense in the NBA. Teams also typically do not play well in their first game back home off of a long road trip. For example, the Bucks narrowly defeated the Atlanta Hawks earlier in February when returning from a four-game east coast road trip.
NO BUSINESS LOSING
| vs New York Knicks, 3/9 – The Knicks once had playoff aspirations. That quickly changed when All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis tore the ACL in his left knee against Milwaukee on February 6. Now, the Knicks are hoping to lose as many games as possible in an effort to have the best possible draft pick this summer.
| @ Memphis, 3/12 – The Grizzles are in a similar boat as the Knicks. They lost star guard Mike Conley Jr. early in the season with a season ending heel injury. Since then things haven’t worked out. They fired coach David Fizdale earlier this season and have now shifted to playing younger guys more minutes instead of All-Star forward Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans. They’re hunting for losses.
| @ Orlando, 3/14 – The Magic got off to a hot start this season, but they too have been in the race for the NBA’s worst record. They had a terrific loss last week against the Chicago Bulls with a late turnover to give the Bulls the victory.
| vs Atlanta, 3/17 – Atlanta has made no secret of what their intentions have been this season. They’re arguably the worst team in the NBA, and trail Phoenix for the worst record in the NBA by a half game. They’re trying to lose and Milwaukee should have no problem handing them a loss.
| @ Chicago, 3/23 – The Bulls must really be regretting the hot streak they went on when Nikola Mirotić returned from facial fractures. Chicago started the season 3-20, but went on a tear when Mirotić returned. They’re now trying to make up for lost time and racking up the losses.
| vs Brooklyn Nets, 4/5 – The Nets are the only team in this category that isn’t attempting to lose on purpose. They do not own their first-round draft pick in this summer’s draft, however they’re the owners of one of the worst records in the league. The Bucks certainly out-talent them and have a pair of blowout wins against the Nets already. This game should make for a third.
| @ New York Knicks, 4/7 – See above
| vs Orlando, 4/9 – Everything above continues to hold true for the Magic, although with this matchup being so late in the season the Bucks could be resting players if playoff positioning is already settled.
BORDERLINE BETWEEN TOSS UP AND LIKELY LOSS
| vs Cleveland, 3/19 – The Bucks have dropped two of three to the Cavaliers this season, although that Cleveland team is drastically different than the one they’ll be seeing in mid-March. Cleveland has already racked up some impressive wins since the trade deadline and has an easy schedule leading up to the game against Milwaukee. The thing Milwaukee has on its side for this game is that Cleveland will be returning home from a season-high six game road trip.
| @ Denver, 4/1 – The Nuggets are one of the more underrated teams in the NBA and dropped 134 points against the Bucks right before the All-Star break. While it’s unlikely Denver will be able to repeat that performance, this still looks like a game that will be very tough for the Bucks to win. Milwaukee will be on its third game in four nights and at the end of its four-game west coast road trip. Playing in the altitude of the Mile High City is always a tough challenge for visitors as well.