Last shots: Clippers 127, Bucks 120

MILWAUKEE | Twenty last shots for the 20 point effort by Bucks forward Jabari Parker in Milwaukee’s 127-120 loss to the LA Clippers on Wednesday night.

1. When All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo exited the game after twisting his right ankle with four minutes remaining in the second quarter things were looking up for Milwaukee. They were trailing by eight at the time, but had cut a 16-point LA lead in half.

2. Antetokounmpo limped off and back to the locker room and did not return. Milwaukee made another run at the start of the third quarter on an 8-0 run to come within two points of the Clippers but could not get past that. LA quickly pushed the lead back to up to 15 points.

3. The Bucks put forth a strong fourth quarter and did have an opportunity to steal the game from the Clippers. Milwaukee cut the lead to four points with 1:21 remaining in regulation on a Thon Maker dunk. It was set up by a steal from Khris Middleton after he hit put in a layup. After Maker’s dunk LA coach Doc Rivers immediately called for timeout.

4. Middleton finished with a team-high 23 points on the night.

5. Out of the timeout, Rivers’ son, Austin, knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the night to put the Clippers back in front by seven points. It was a dagger right in front of the Milwaukee bench.

6. That 3-pointer by Rivers was LA’s 15th and final of the contest. They outscored Milwaukee 45-24 from deep. That’s an area that haunted the Bucks in the loss on Monday night against Cleveland as well. They were outscored 45-24 from behind the arc in that game, as well.

7. “Honestly, we’ve just got to be able to play against them,” forward Jabari Parker said about the team’s 3-point defense. “That’s not specific defense, that’s just trying to make it hard for them on offense.”

8. Parker did play a season-high in minutes, partly due to the second half absence of Antetokounmpo. He had 20 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench for Milwaukee.

9. Not only did the Bucks struggle to defend the 3-point line in the second half, where the Clippers were 9-of-15, but they failed to defend the paint in the first half. LA’s DeAndre Jordan had a monstorous first quarter for the Clippers. He had a double-double before the game’s first 12 minutes were over, having 14 points and 10 rebounds in that period alone. He finished with 25 points and 22 rebounds.

10. In that first quarter the Bucks allowed 24 of LA’s 38 points to come in the paint. They were also outrebounded 17 to 6. They put more emphasis on the pereimteter early on, which led to the opportunities for Jordan. The second half saw those priorities flipped, which led to a combined 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting by Rivers and 6th Man of the Year candidate Lou Williams.

11. Lately, the Bucks haven’t done much to make things hard offensively for opponents. In six of the last seven games Milwaukee’s opponent has scored 110 points or more. The lone exception was the game against the Memphis Grizzles, when Milwaukee allowed 103 points.

12. Over that stretch the Bucks have allowed an average of 117 points per game. That’s a number that’s far to high for a team with a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Antetokounmpo. The Bucks should not be allowing as many points as they are. There’s no excuse for it.

13. In fact, the only teams that they’ve played in the past seven games that have offenses in the top ten in the NBA in terms of offensive rating are Houston, Cleveland, and LA. Milwaukee allowed 110 points or more to Atlanta (26th), Orlando (25th), and New York (22nd). That needs to stop, even if Milwaukee was able to outscore two of those three teams.

14. Let’s state the obvious: Milwaukee is not going to win games against quality competition without Antetokounmpo. Few teams are able to survive without the player that they’re built around. There may be exceptions from time to time on short-term instances. Over the long-haul stars win in the NBA, and that’s what Antetokounmpo is, and even that hasn’t been enough lately for Milwaukee.

15. After the game, interim head coach Joe Prunty did not have an official update on the status of Antetokounmpo. He was seen walking out of the locker room under his own power, although there was an obvious limp as he favored his right leg. For what it’s worth, Antetokounmpo also had a puppy in his hands when he left. Dogs tend to make people happier, but to my knowledge they do not have the power to heal sprained ankles.

16. Luckily for the Bucks, they still hold a five-game lead over ninth-place Detroit for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Each team has 11 games left remaining, however the tiebreaker is not yet settled. The two teams split the regular season series, with each team winning twice. The next step in the tiebreaker procedure is record within the division, and the Pistons currently lead the Bucks by two games in that category.

17. It would take a monumental collapse for the Bucks to miss out on the playoffs. The magic number for Milwaukee is currently six. That means any combination of Milwaukee wins and Detroit losses that equal six would clinch the eight-seed for the Bucks.

18. The Bucks are a near-lock for the playoffs, but the recent play and the question of the injury to Antetokounmpo certainly bring the question up, and understandably so.

19. Tonight’s loss hurts Milwaukee more in terms of seeding positioning as the Miami Heat moved 1.5 games ahead of them. That’s not an insurmountable lead with 11 games remaining, but Miami does own the tiebreaker over Milwaukee. The Heat defeated the Bucks all three times the teams squared off this season. That means that the Bucks would have to finish a full game ahead of Miami in order to finish in seventh place. With the tiebreaker factored in, Miami’s magic number to clinch seventh place in the Eastern Conference is nine.

20. The Bucks are back in action on Friday night in Chicago, Ill. against the Bulls at the United Center. Chicago is currently 24-47 on the season and has lost three in a row.

Bucks fall to Cavaliers 124-117

All-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 37 points and collected 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to outshine LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James finished with 40 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in Cleveland’s 124-117 win over Milwaukee on Monday night.

The Bucks found themselves within single-digits at the start of the fourth quarter while James was resting on the bench for the Cavaliers. Cleveland’s second-unit opened up the final period on a 12-5 run to take a 15-point advantage right after James checked back in and put the game out of reach.

Milwaukee made a run late to close the score within six, but it was too little too late for the Bucks. The Cavaliers hit their free throws at the end of the game to ensure that Milwaukee’s comeback did not make a difference in the result.

Forward Khris Middleton scored 30 points for Milwaukee on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, but the Bucks were ultimately outscored 45-24 from behind the arc. Milwaukee was also out-rebounded by Cleveland 42-32, including 12 offensive rebounds by the Cavaliers leading to 19 second-chance points.

The loss dropped Milwaukee to 37-33 on the season. The Bucks are now in eighth place in the Eastern Conference after the Miami Heat defeated the Denver Nuggets in double-overtime to take a half-game lead over the Bucks for seventh place.

Forecasting Milwaukee’s playoff seed

The Milwaukee Bucks would need a stunning, monumental collapse to miss the playoffs. Milwaukee has 13 games remaining in the regular season and has a seven-game lead over the Detroit Pistons, the current ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference.

The Eastern Conference playoff teams are all but set, the seeding is far from decided, however.

The top two seeds are likely set, as Toronto holds the top spot with a lead of five games over the second-place Boston Celtics. The Celtics hold a six-game lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are the team currently in third.

Things become very interesting with the six teams currently between Cleveland and Miami. There are currently 3.5 games separating the Cavaliers and the Heat, with Indiana, Washington, and Philadelphia all with in 1.5 games of the three-seed. Milwaukee and Miami sit behind them, currently in seventh and eighth, respectively.

The Bucks may have a tough road to get much higher than they currently are, although that’s certainly possible looking at the remainder of their schedule.

Milwaukee has the pleasure of finishing up their season with three of their final four games against Brooklyn, New York, and Orlando. Those three teams are in the race for the first overall pick in the NBA draft this upcoming summer. The final game of the season is against the Philadelphia 76ers, which could make things very interesting.

The Bucks face only two other teams the remainder of the season that are not either firmly in the playoffs or fighting for a spot. They play the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, both on the road. In fact, eight of Milwaukee’s final 13 games are away from the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. The Bucks are 15-18 on the road so far this season.

It’s hard to predict exactly how the Bucks will finish the season out considering how inconsistent they have been this season. They’re going to need help to climb out of a matchup with one of the two top seeds in the east, as well as keeping their first-round pick in the draft this summer.

Milwaukee traded away a protected first-round draft pick when acquiring Eric Bledsoe earlier this season. If the pick falls between the first selection and the sixteenth, the Suns receive it. If not, the Bucks keep it. In order to ensure the pick stays in Milwaukee, the Bucks need to finish no worse than sixth in the east. If they finish lower than that, Milwaukee then needs to depend on the bottom of the playoffs in the Western Conference to have at least one team with a worse record than the Bucks. That is highly unlikely at the current moment.

The best-case scenario is that the Bucks are able to play themselves into sixth, although this may be a bit of a stretch, it’s possible. The team to watch is the Indiana Pacers as a team that could potentially fall.

The Pacers have one of the toughest schedules in the league to close out the season. They’re currently three games ahead of the Bucks, although they do own the tiebreaker, as Indiana won the season series 3-1.

Indiana has a west coast trip to take, just as the Bucks do left on the schedule. The Pacers also have only one game remaining with a team that’s in the race to the bottom of the standings in the Sacramento Kings. It doesn’t help the Pacers cause that they play either with a back-to-back or with one off day every day for the remainder of the season.

That started for the Pacers on February 26, since then, Indiana has played every other day with one back-to-back mixed in. So far in that stretch the Pacers have gone 6-5, and it’s plausible to think things may get worse for the Pacers with their schedule difficulty increasing and lack of rest continuing through the end of the season.

The Bucks have a tall task ahead to climb their way up to potentially save their draft pick and improve their playoff seeding, but it’s something that’s possible and worth watching.

Last shots: Bucks 122, Hawks 117

MILWAUKEE | Twenty-three last shots for the 23 points scored by Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton in the 122-117 win over Atlanta on Saturday night.

1. The Bucks played one of the easiest portions of their schedule beginning the day that coach Jason Kidd was fired. After that, the easiest period of their schedule was the four-game stretch they just completed with a 3-1 record. Memphis, Orlando, and Atlanta are three of the four worst teams in the NBA, and the Bucks just faced them in succession.

2. The Bucks went 2-1 against those teams, although they weren’t overly impressive in any of the victories. Milwaukee found itself in a battle late in the fourth quarter against Atlanta on Saturday evening. The Hawks led early on by as many as 11 points in the first half before the Bucks took a 56-50 lead into the locker room at halftime.

3. The starting five was an issue again for Milwaukee, as it has been lately. Atlanta led 31-26 after the first quarter. The Bucks struggled offensively in the period. The only area they were successful was from the 3-point line, where they knocked down four 3s.

4. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in that first quarter. The Hawks were adamant about letting him shoot from behind the arc.

5. After the first quarter Antetokounmpo took four more 3-pointers, missing all of them. He finished with a team-high 33 points on 12-of-25 shooting. Antetokounmpo added in 12 rebounds, seven assists, and four steals as well.

6. The starting group was outscored in the first quarter against Memphis and got off to a poor start again on Saturday.

7. “We want to start games and halves the right way,” interim head coach Joe Prunty said about his starting lineup prior to the game. “We want to play the right way coming out of the gate to make sure that that carries over through the first half, and then when you come out to start the second half, you want that as well. So, it is very important, and we do need our starters to step up. We have had too many stretches where we have had these lulls on both sides of the floor, and teams as going on big runs.”

8. That’s something that needs to change for the Bucks. They’re able to escape and come back against teams like Memphis, New York, and Atlanta when they don’t play their best. The Bucks don’t have enough to dig themselves out of a big hole against playoff teams.

9. The Bucks also need to be better at not allowing teams back into games. Atlanta was trailing by 13 points after Khris Middleton knocked down a 3-pointer with :36 remaining in the period. That shot gave Middleton an impressive 15 points in the quarter, prompted a timeout by Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, and should have been a back-breaker for the Hawks.

10. Instead of that being the case, Milwaukee allowed Atlanta to close the period on a 5-0 run. Andrew White III knocked down a 3-pointer, Eric Bledsoe had a careless turnover, and White III put in a layup before the clock expired. The Bucks found themselves without any of the momentum that they had earned, and a lead of only eight entering the fourth quarter.

11. Bledsoe’s turnover was an attempt at a pass | to himself | off of the backboard. He got caught in the air after attempting to draw a foul, had nowhere else to go with the ball, and that was the result.

12. Things didn’t immediately get better, as the Hawks were able to climb all the way back and take a one-point lead with 4:39 left in the game on a pair of Taurean Prince free throws. He was the game’s high scorer with 38 points for Atlanta.

13. The Hawks got back into the game partly due to a five-point possession made possible by a flagrant foul by Antetokounmpo. Atlanta forward John Collins shot a 3-pointer from the right corner with Antetokounmpo closing out on him. Antetokounmpo did not give Collins the necessary room to land following the shot.

14. The rule is one that was implemented this season. In the playoffs last year Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard was injured by Zaza Pachulia of the Golden State Warriors when Pachulia closed out on a jumper that Leonard was shooting.

15. Pachulia did not allow Leonard the proper room to land following his shot. Leonard landed directly on the foot of Pachulia, spraining his ankle, and ending his postseason. The play was called dirty, and further increased the narrative that Pachulia is a dirty player.

16. After the game, Antetokounmpo said he didn’t intentionally hurt Collins, who left the game and did not return with a sprained left ankle.

17. “I tried to close out, and not to touch,” Antetokounmpo said. “I gave [John Collins] a little bit of space because we wanted him to shoot that shot. He landed on my foot. They say the code now when someone lands on your foot is a flagrant [foul]. I didn’t do it on purpose. I hope he’s doing well and that he’s healthy.”

18. After the game, Collins said he didn’t think his injury was too serious.

19. “Obviously, I landed on his foot, but I don’t think he was intentionally trying to run up under me,” Collins said. “He was just closing out. I thought when I shot the ball I jumped into the line a little bit. It was a basketball play.”

20. Milwaukee now enters a tougher portion of its schedule, and its one they must step up for in order to avoid a bottom two seed in the conference. Five of the next six games for Milwaukee come against teams that are either in the playoffs or fighting for a spot.

21. The Bucks also have to go out to the west coast for a four-game road trip to close the month.

22. On that road trip two of the games are against teams fighting for a playoff spot in the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets, one is against the Golden State Warriors, and the final one is against the Los Angeles Lakers.

23. Before they worry about that, Milwaukee returns to action Monday night in Cleveland against the Cavaliers.

Bucks beat Memphis 121-103

Brandon Jennings had not played for the Milwaukee Bucks since April 28, 2013 when the Bucks lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. His first game in a Milwaukee uniform since then was better than anyone could have expected.

Jennings helped the Bucks defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 121-103 on the road Monday night. Jennings, in his first NBA game of the season, flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 16 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds.

He played 24 minutes, which was more than expected. This was partly due to the foul trouble that both guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo found themselves in. They both finished with five fouls in less than 30 minutes on the court. Antetokounmpo had 20 points on the evening, and Bledsoe had 14.

Khris Middleton led the way for Milwaukee in scoring. He had 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. In total, the Bucks had seven players reach double-figures in scoring.

The win moved Milwaukee into seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, shifting ahead of the Miami Heat.

The Bucks are back in action on Wednesday night in Orlando against the Magic.

Report: Bucks sign Brandon Jennings to 10-day contract

When guard Brandon Jennings signed a contract with the Wisconsin Herd, the Milwaukee Bucks G-League affiliate, earlier this season any fans assumed that it meant a return to Milwaukee was in the cards. On Saturday afternoon it was reported that Jennings has agreed to a 10-day contract with the Bucks according to ESPN.

Jennings was drafted with the 10th overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft by Milwaukee. He spent four seasons with the Bucks before playing for playing for Detroit, Orlando, New York, and Washington between 2013 and last season. Jennings has not played an NBA game this year.

In his four years in Milwaukee, Jennings played in 291 games for the Bucks while averaging 17 points per game. His career-high of 19.1 points per game came in Milwaukee during the 2011-12 season.

Last season, Jennings played in 81 games between the Knicks and Wizards, averaging 7.1 points and 4.9 assists per game.

In order for the move to be possible, the Bucks have waived forward Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic has been out since November with a pulmonary emboli in both lungs. He played in 10 games this season for the Bucks, averaging 7.1 pointer per game.

Last shots: Bucks 120, Knicks 112

Milwaukee – Fourteen last shots for the 14 free throws attempted by Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee’s 120-112 win over New York on Friday night.

1. All wins are good wins. Let’s put that out first and foremost. There’s no such thing as a bad win in the NBA.

2. With that being said, there are certainly better wins than this one. The Bucks used a terrific fourth quarter to jump in front of the Knicks on Friday night. Before the final period, however, things weren’t great for the Bucks.

3. Entering the fourth, Milwaukee led New York 91-89. They opened up the period on a 21-7 run to take command of the game at 112-96. New York fought back to cut the deficit as close as eight with 1:05 remaining.

4. This is the type of game that Milwaukee has had no trouble winning since interim head coach Joe Prunty took over the team in late January. The Bucks are 9-1 against teams that currently have losing records in that time. It’s the quality teams that the Bucks have struggled with, going 3-8 in that same stretch against teams with winning records.

5. Friday night was no different. The fourth quarter saw a big performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo as he had 13 of his 28 points during it. That included a 7-of-9 mark from the free throw line.

6. In the fourth, Milwaukee went a stretch where their focus was to set Antetokounmpo in isolation on the left wing and attack the basket. He did so successfully, and that shows by all three of his makes from the floor coming within six feet of the rim as well as his frequent trips to the foul line.

7. Antetokounmpo was helped out plenty in the fourth by Khris Middleton as well. He had eight of his game-high 30 points in the final period. Middleton had one of his best games in recent memory, as he was a very efficient 11-of-16 from the floor.

8. It’s early-to-mid March right now, and the Bucks are in no danger of missing the playoffs currently. That being said, this was a must-win game for Milwaukee, and the next three games are as well.

9. The Knicks, at one point in time had playoff aspirations for this season. That goal was finished the exact second forward Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL against the Bucks in New York in early February. Now, New York is hoping for the highest draft pick possible in the 2018 NBA Draft in June. The Knicks have now lost 14 of their last 15 games. They’ve won a single game since Porzingis was injured, and that was against the Orlando Magic, another team glued to the bottom of the NBA.

10. The Bucks needed this game, after finishing a stretch of eight out of nine games against teams with winning records. Milwaukee went 2-7, with the wins coming on the road in overtime against Toronto and at home against Philadelphia.

11. Milwaukee started a stretch of four straight games against teams below .500 on Friday night with the Knicks. The Bucks now head on the road to take on the Memphis Grizzles and Orlando Magic before returning home next Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks. As of this writing, those teams have a combined winning percentage of .295 on the season. The Magic and Hawks are the two teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and the Grizzles are the current bottom feeders in the Western Conference.

12. All three of the remaining games in this stretch are games that need to be won by Milwaukee. After Atlanta, Milwaukee heads to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers. Cleveland has been up and down on the season, but LeBron James and company are always a challenge for the Bucks.

13. Again, it’s always good to get a win, especially when a team has struggled to get them as of late. Milwaukee needs to be able to beat good teams before anyone begins to believe in them.

14. The Bucks are back in action on Monday night in Memphis against the Grizzles.

Last shots: Rockets 110, Bucks 99

MILWAUKEE – Fifteen last shots for the 15 points scored off the bench by Bucks guard Sterling Brown in Milwaukee’s 110-99 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

1. Losing to the Rockets is nothing that Milwaukee should hang its head over. It’s happening to every team in the league. Wednesday night was Houston’s 17th consecutive win. The last loss for the Rockets came all the way back on January 26.

2. Since then, the Rockets have beaten some of the NBA’s best in San Antonio, Cleveland, Minnesota (twice), Denver (twice), Boston, Oklahoma City, and now Milwaukee.

3. What needs to get across is that Houston isn’t just a good team. They’re a great team. This version of the Rockets owns the best offensive rating in league history. Entering Wednesday night, Houston was scoring 116 points per 100 possessions. The current record for a full season belongs to the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors that went on to win the Finals.

4. This version of the Rockets could win the title this year and it should surprise absolutely no one. They’re that good.

5. Early in the game, the Rockets looked like they had played a game in a different part of the country last night – because they did – and Milwaukee looked like it was off yesterday. That didn’t matter as the Rockets held a 24-22 lead after the first quarter. It was a time when Milwaukee looked like the team with more energy, and it still wasn’t enough.

6. In the second quarter things looked a little more as expected, as Houston outscored Milwaukee by 10 points, thanks in part to a buzzer-beating 26-foot 3-pointer by James Harden. That put them ahead at halftime 58-46, with Houston only connecting on 7-of-19 3-pointers.

7. Houston is trying to change the way that basketball is played. The Rockets are taking more 3-pointers than anyone else, and they’re taking longer 3-pointers than anyone else. There have been 37 games in the NBA this season where a team has shot 45 or more 3-pointers in a single game. The Rockets have been the team to do it in 26 of those 37 games.

8. The Rockets finished the game against the Bucks hitting 19-of-40 3-pointers. The Bucks haven’t attempted 40 3-pointers in a game once this season. Milwaukee’s season-high is 36 3-pointers attempted against Charlotte back in November.

9. With all this being said, things aren’t going great for Milwaukee right now to say the least. The Bucks have lost 7-of-9, dating back to the last game before the All-Star break. Of those nine games, eight of them have come against teams that currently are in the playoff picture.

10. The schedule lightens greatly for the Bucks moving forward, as the next four games are all against teams that have losing records. The Knicks, Grizzlies, Magic, and Hawks are all competing for the first pick in the draft this summer. Those games should be wins, if they’re not, something is seriously wrong.

11. “We’ve got to win,” forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said following the loss to the Rockets. “We’ve got to win those four games. Period. That’s it.”

12. Antetokounmpo is correct. The Bucks, luckily, aren’t in danger of falling out of the playoffs thanks to Detroit’s ineptitude recently. Milwaukee holds a five-game lead over the Pistons as things stand Wednesday night.

13. That being said, the Bucks have certainly set themselves up for a more difficult than desired first round playoff matchup. As things stand now, the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and Cleveland Cavaliers are the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, and likely to stay there. Winning 4-of-7 against any of those three teams seems like an awfully tall task.

14. Antetokounmpo was a bright spot for the Bucks offensively, after recent struggles, he had a game-high 30 points for Milwaukee. Sterling Brown also played well, scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds off the bench in 26 minutes.

15. At the end of the night, the Bucks played better than they have at times over this recent stretch. It just wasn’t enough to beat the best team in the NBA.

Milwaukee Bucks lose to Indiana Pacers 92-89

The 3-point attempt from the hands of forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was no good as the buzzer sounded, meaning the Milwaukee Bucks lost for the sixth time in eight games.

Milwaukee’s struggles have come against teams that are in the playoff picture, for the most part. Of their last eight games, the only one that was against a team on the outside looking in of the playoffs was the Detroit Pistons, who sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

As for the game itself, both teams played relatively sloppy, as both of them were on the second night of a back-to-back. Each team had to travel to Indiana, as well. The Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards Sunday on the road, while the Bucks beat Philadelphia 76ers in Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds in the loss. Guard Eric Bledsoe was the leading scorer for Milwaukee, he had 26 points.

The Bucks had difficulty stopping Bojan Bogdanovic on Monday night. He had a season-high 29 points for Indiana.

Milwaukee has an off-day on Tuesday before returning to action on Wednesday night at home against the NBA leading Houston Rockets.

Forecasting the Bucks schedule down the stretch

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.


| 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.


| 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.