The Bucks played their worst game of the season Wednesday night in Philadelphia, suffering a 130-95 spanking to the streaking 76ers. And yet, by the time a night of bonkers basketball was over and the regular season had officially ended, Milwaukee emerged a winner, as far the playoffs were concerned.
The Bucks’ loss to the 76ers, combined with an unlikely perfect storm of lucky outcomes – the Cavaliers somehow lost to the Knicks, the Heat surprisingly beat the Raptors and the Wizards amusingly fell to the Magic – dropped Milwaukee from the No. 6 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference to the No. 7 seed.
So, rather than facing third-seeded Philadelphia – which has won 16 straight games and just pummeled the Bucks, stole Giannis’ lunch money and stuffed Thon Maker into a locker – Milwaukee will get to play the second-seeded Boston Celtics, who closed the season by losing four of their final six games and will be without star point guard Kyrie Irving, who recently underwent knee surgery. By all accounts, Boston – against whom Milwaukee went 2-2 during the regular season – appears to be the better, arguably easier first-round opponent.
Going into their contest Wednesday night in Philadelphia, many fans were hoping for the Bucks to lose for this very reason. But they needed some specific help from the aforementioned teams, due to tiebreakers and positioning, to get the seemingly more-desirable matchup – and certainly nobody preferred the team to trip and fall so appallingly backwards into the seventh seed. But, it happened. Kudos, Joe Prunty? Anyway, Miami earned the No. 6 seed and will play the 76ers.
There was another concern for the Bucks related to Wednesday’s games: their 2018 first-round draft pick, which was sent to the Phoenix Suns in the Eric Bledsoe trade. Due to protections placed on the pick, if the Bucks finished as the sixth seed, they’d keep their choice this year; if they fell below No. 6, it would go to the Suns. Naturally, because of Wednesday’s strangeness and how the tiebreaker scenarios played out, there will be a ping-pong lottery selection between Milwaukee and Miami on Friday to decide who will have the 16th draft pick.
But back to the playoffs. The Bucks, who finished 44-38, will travel to Boston for Games 1 and 2, before returning to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4. If they are necessary, Games 5 and 7 will be in Boston, while Game 6 would be in Milwaukee (#BucksInSix). The Bucks were 25-16 at home this season and 19-22 on the road. They closed the regular season by winning seven of their last 11 games. Playoff dates and times are yet to be determined.
So, somehow, despite their worst loss of the season – silver lining, sort of: 25 points off the bench for Jabari Parker and the return to health of the full roster – the Bucks ham-handedly hooped their way into a winnable first-round playoff series. Fear the deer, Boston.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.