A message for the Milwaukee hoops mob: Release the panic button and return your pitchforks to the shed.
Yes, the Milwaukee Bucks have finally lost consecutive games for the first time this season. No, their season-long outlook has not changed even a single iota.
After taking the first three games of the West Coast road trip to push their winning streak to seven, the Bucks let fourth-quarter leads slip through their hands against Utah last Saturday and Phoenix on Monday. The first loss – which featured a Donovan Mitchell 46-point explosion – can be written off pretty easily, as it was the second night of a back-to-back for Milwaukee, which was also missing starting guards Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon. The second defeat is tougher to rationalize, if only because the Suns are a dreadful outfit with the second-worst record in the league, and they have somehow now beaten the Bucks twice.
But regardless of what happened in those defeats, and however disappointing it is to lose the oh so cool "no consecutive losses" stat, the Bucks are still well positioned for a deep playoff run. Milwaukee’s main competition for the Eastern Conference’s top overall seed is the Toronto Raptors, who are conveniently in the midst of their own two-game skid. The Bucks still possess a 2.5-game lead in the East and hold the tiebreaker over the Raptors by way of winning the season series, 3-1.
Milwaukee is also through the toughest part of its schedule. Eighteen of the previous 25 games were on the road, a number that flips to 11 home contests and just seven road games down the stretch. (Five of those seven away games are also against teams .500 or worse).
The Bucks navigated that daunting slate through the dog days of the season with aplomb; there’s no reason to believe they can’t hold off the Raptors over the final month as well.
Over these first 60-plus games, Milwaukee has proven that it is more than a cutesy, overachieving, small-market team. The Bucks have two highly-skilled guards capable of playing both on and off the ball, a bevy of versatile wings and a pair of sweet-shooting bigs. Even without Giannis Antetokounmpo, this unit would be a threat to do damage in the postseason. But with the MVP favorite in tow and leading the charge, the Bucks have plenty of wiggle room before things truly become concerning.
Several key members have missed time with injury recently, including Antetokounmpo, Brogdon, Bledsoe and Nikola Mirotic, so if the Bucks can put together a solid stretch over the coming weeks, head coach Mike Budenholzer should be able to get his stars some rest ahead of the postseason.
Bucks fans have rightfully built up a protective layer of pessimism watching the franchise rattle between disappointing finishes, catastrophic disasters and everything in between for nearly two decades. So it’s understandable that Brew City hoopers are still waiting for the other shoe to drop. But fear not, because this team has passed every test with flying colors thus far.
And at the very least, Milwaukee won’t have to deal with its kryptonite this spring, as the mighty Phoenix Suns have already been eliminated from the playoffs.