Twenty-three last shots for the 23 points scored by guard Eric Bledsoe in Milwaukee’s 112-96 loss in Game 7 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the Boston Celtics.
1. This was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Milwaukee Bucks. There’s no other way to put it.
2. The Bucks had aspirations of battling for homecourt advantage in the first round and making a run as deep as the Eastern Conference Finals. Instead, their season ends with a Game 7 loss in the first round to the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics.
3. Make no mistake, the Celtics aren’t one of the typical powerhouse No. 2 seed. Sure, they won 55 games this year, but once the playoffs rolled around Boston was without several key players. Kyrie Irving and Daniel Theis both missed the entire series, Marcus Smart missed the first four games, Jaylen Brown missed the second half of Game 7, and Gordon Heyward missed the entire season.
4. The Celtics still found a way to beat the Bucks four times despite Milwaukee being the team at full-strength.
5. No. 7 seeds aren’t typically expected to advance in the NBA Playoffs. This one was.
6. In a game that could have been an early career-defining moment for all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, it wasn’t. He wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t the performance needed from a player knocking on the door of the NBA’s elite.
7. Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and four turnovers. He was far from spectacular. Antetokounmpo wasn’t the best player on the floor, and the Bucks cannot win when that’s the case. Khris Middleton, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and arguably Eric Bledsoe were better than him.
8. Middleton continued his strong play, finishing with a game-high 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He had an incredible series and was certainly Milwaukee’s most consistent player. Bledsoe also saved his best game of the series – by far – for Game 7. He had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the loss.
9. Even with Bledsoe playing well, he was still outplayed by Rozier, who finished with a playoff-career-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and nine assists. Horford also had 26 points for Boston on 13-of-17 shooting.
10. The Bucks needed an effort from Antetokounmpo similar to the one they received in Game 6. On that night Antetokounmpo was undoubtedly the best player on the floor. He was the reason that the Bucks were able to force a Game 7, he was also part of the reason that Milwaukee’s season is now over.
11. Milwaukee now enters an offseason filled with uncertainty. The Bucks do not have a head coach, as it’s extremely unlikely that interim coach Joe Prunty will be retained to lead the team, and they’ll have to make a decision on Jabari Parker’s future.
12. Prunty will likely be given an opportunity to interview for the job opening, but the Bucks would be foolish to retain him moving forward. This job, due to the opportunity to coach Antetokounmpo, will be one of the more sought-after positions in the NBA for this coaching cycle.
13. That’s not to say Milwaukee will be able to pick any coach out there. With the Bucks lasting two weeks into the playoffs, every other team with a coaching vacancy has a head start on the search. For instance, the New York Knicks have reportedly interviewed 10 candidates already. Hiring the right coach will certainly help the Bucks move closer to owning the future that has been talked about so often. But that alone will not do it. There have been poor personnel decisions that have factored into the Bucks struggling, not just the coaching of Prunty and Jason Kidd before him.
14. Milwaukee has nearly $50 million tied up next season between Eric Bledsoe, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell, and Mirza Teletovic. Add in the dead money the team has from the Larry Sanders and Spencer Hawes situations and that number is over $50 million.
15. This is all before factoring in the Parker situation. He now enters restricted free agency after turning down Milwaukee’s contract extension offer prior to the season.
16. At times, Parker has been a very productive player for Milwaukee. Those times haven’t been frequent enough, and frankly, there are too many deficiencies in his game for him to be a max-level player. Add in his injured plagued history and he’s not a player that can be counted on with that type of financial commitment.
17. The likely scenario is that Parker will be given an offer sheet by another team and the Bucks will have an opportunity to match it. Matching it may push the Bucks further into financial distress as they wait for the contracts handed out to Henson, Dellavedova, and Snell to run out.
18. Not matching it would mean letting a talented player walk out the door with no compensation while the team is attempting to enter a window of contention.
19. The other question the Bucks need to ask this offseason is how serious the future is they’re trying to own. Yes, Antetokounmpo’s future is bright, and yes, Middleton is a very underrated player alongside him.
20. With that being said, where do the Bucks sit in the pecking order of the Eastern Conference? There’s uncertainty surrounding Cleveland with the future of LeBron James, yes. But the Celtics just knocked the Bucks off without their two best players, the Philadelphia 76ers are currently better than the Bucks — despite being younger – and are only going to be getting better while maintaining financial flexibility, and the Toronto Raptors do not look like they’re going anywhere soon, either.
21. And that’s only the Eastern Conference.
22. It’s hard to call this season anything but a failure for Milwaukee. And no matter what Antetokounmpo says about his future in Milwaukee, the clock is ticking for the Bucks.
23. Right now, it’s certainly difficult to see the Bucks owning the future.