By Brian Foley Special to OnMilwaukee Published Aug 12, 2019 at 8:16 PM Photography: Dan Garcia

Bucks fans, welcome to the NBA’s upper-echelon. As Warriors fans can attest – and as Cavaliers fans, Heat fans and Spurs fans struggled through before them – you are about to embark on the toughest six-month slog of your fandom as you await the return of playoff basketball.

Yes, your team is going to win a ton of games. And yes, you will have the absolute pleasure of watching hoops icon Giannis Antetokounmpo every night. But there are only so many Eric Bledsoe-Brook Lopez pick-and-pops against Detroit on a Tuesday night that a fan can stomach. After the exhilarating highs – and ultimate lows – of last season’s playoff run, nothing in the regular season will compare to those visceral emotions.

Still, even with the Phoenixes, Washingtons and Clevelands of the world marring the schedule, there are plenty of intriguing matchups dotting the calendar, which should be just enough to wet your appetite and tide you over until the real basketball season begins.

Here are 10 must-see regular season home games for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2019-20.

Saturday, Oct. 26 vs. Miami Heat

There’s nothing quite like a home opener. All possibilities exist. Giannis will win MVP again. DJ Wilson will capture the Most Improved Player award. The Bucks cadre of shooting guards will be enough to replace Malcolm Brogdon. Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez will film a buddy cop movie where they take down rogue NBA mascots. Anything is possible at the start of the season. Miami – now led by Marquette alum Jimmy Butler – is also a potential first-round opponent in the postseason. It’s never to soon to start scouting!

Saturday, Nov. 2 vs. Toronto Raptors

Unlike most revenge stories, where the team that was defeated is hungry to smash its oppressor, the sight of the Raptors is more likely to make the Bucks players and fans sick to their stomach than hungry for payback. With the franchise’s first trip to the NBA Finals in decades sitting on a silver platter, and a hampered Golden State waiting on the other side, the Bucks gagged away four straight games in the Eastern Conference Finals and had to sit and watch from the couch as the Raptors cruised to an NBA title. There is nothing Milwaukee can do on Nov. 2 to diminish Toronto’s championship, especially as the Raptors operate with a vastly different team than its 2018-19 unit. 

Friday, Dec. 6 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

This is a game, however, that is guaranteed to get the Bucks all kinds of fired up. Giannis and company have sat on the sidelines all summer listening to various odes to Kawhi Leonard; here’s betting Antetokounmpo comes out in attack mode early and often against the new-look Clippers.

Of course, knowing how Kawhi has operated in the past, and knowing that Giannis will be foaming at the mouth to take him down, Leonard may sit this game out strictly to toy with the Bucks. Paul George, acquired this summer from the Oklahoma City Thunder, is currently recovering from surgeries on both shoulders, though he may be back in action when LAC travels to Milwaukee. This has a chance to be an epic duel between the three best wings in basketball, but it could just as well fall short of its lofty expectations.

Wednesday, Dec. 11 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

After one season of earth-shattering dunks and mind-blowing efficiency at Duke, Zion Williamson has already turned into a transcendent NBA star despite only playing nine minutes of Summer League hoops. The Pelicans’ new front office has done well to revamp a previously stale roster in the wake of the Anthony Davis trade, but all of the hype centers on their 6-foot-7, 285-lb freak. Zion has already joined the NBA’s first-name All-Star group that includes LeBron, Giannis, Kawhi, Steph and Kyrie – and will get a chance early in the season to show his stuff against the NBA’s reigning MVP.

Thursday, Dec. 19 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Milwaukee may not have Hollywood’s star power, but on Dec. 19, the red carpet at Fiserv Forum will feature three of the league’s best: The King, The Freak and The Brow. Not only are LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis  three of the best athletes the NBA has ever seen, but they could be on a crash course to meet in the NBA Finals as well. LeBron-AD alley oops are sure to be must-watch TV in 2019-20, and Giannis has proven to be a one-man highlight reel. Tickets will be at a premium when they are together on the same floor in Milwaukee.

Friday, Jan. 31 vs. Denver Nuggets

Giannis is now one of the league’s global headliners, but Nuggets star and Serbia native Nikola Jokic is not far behind. The doughy seven-footer is coming off a masterful season at 23 years old, dropping 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists a night. He then took his game to another level in the postseason with a 25-13-8 stat line, highlighted by a remarkable 65-minute effort in the four-overtime thriller with Portland. A quick tip from someone who does not gamble: grab Jokic MVP odds, currently seventh at +1000, while you can. The Joker will be the central offensive figure for the budding Nuggets, who earned the two seed in the West last year and could climb even higher in 2019-20.

Thursday, Feb. 6 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Just hours after the 2020 NBA trade deadline concludes, the two Eastern Conference favorites will square off at Fiserv Forum. It would be a surprise to see a non-Milwaukee/Philly finish atop the East come April, and there is a good chance these two will meet again in the Eastern Conference Finals. Philadelphia has overhauled its roster, sending out Jimmy Butler, re-signing Tobias Harris, and bringing in Al Horford and Josh Richardson. But it’s unclear if they are actually any better than they were when they bowed out to Toronto in the second round of the playoffs last spring. As always, the Sixers’ success will hang on Joel Embiid’s health and Ben Simmons’ offensive development.

Saturday, March 14 vs. Golden State Warriors

With Kevin Durant moving to Brooklyn and the dynasty seemingly over, Golden State has been largely marginalized in the Western Conference playoff debate. But with two-time MVP Steph Curry leading the way, the mercurial Draymond Green under contract long-term and 23-year-old All-Star D’Angelo Russell now in tow, the Dubs are still a formidable squad. And late in the season, when Golden State makes the trek to Milwaukee, Klay Thompson could be back on the floor post-ACL surgery. Thompson expects to be back after the All-Star break after injuring his knee in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Wednesday, March 25 vs. Houston Rockets

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo – the NBA’s last two MVPs and the two MVP favorites entering the 2019-20 season – will once against do battle late in the season in Milwaukee. Neither put forth their best effort when they faced off on March 26 in Milwaukee last season, so the league has granted them a second chance at making magic. The Bucks found some sort of kryptonite against Harden last year, holding the two-time scoring champ to just 39 percent shooting in two head-to-head meetings.

Thursday, April 9 vs. Brooklyn Nets

Here are some of Irving’s 2018-19 stats:

  • Regular season FG percentage: 49 percent

  • Regular season FG percentage against the Bucks: 39 percent

  • Postseason FG percentage against the Bucks: 36 percent

It’s clear Kyrie does not enjoy playing the Bucks, and he seemed to implode as his Boston Celtics careened out of the playoffs in five games against Milwaukee last season – something Bucks fans will be sure to remind him of when the Nets stop by Fiserv Forum. The Nets loom as a future title contender, but with Durant likely out for all of 2019-20, the Bucks should still have a leg up on Brooklyn.

Brian Foley Special to OnMilwaukee
Brian Foley is a Maryland native, but has quickly established roots in Milwaukee after graduating from Marquette University in May 2017 with a bachelor's degree in digital media. He has interned for several media organizations in the area, including TMJ4-TV, WTMJ Newsradio and ESPN Milwaukee, and continues to contribute to FanSided's national network of sites.

When Brian's not writing about sports, he is probably prattling on about Marquette hoops, digging through statistics, or re-binging his favorite television series. Any conversation that begins with a quote from "The Office" or "West Wing" is a surefire way to grab his attention.