After a near-historic regular season, the team's first playoff series victory and its first Eastern Conference Finals visit since 2001, the Bucks unfortunately stop here. Despite a strong start, Milwaukee lost Saturday night in Toronto, 100-94, sending the Raptors onto the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors and sending the Bucks back home to clean out their lockers.
Still stewing in the heat of the loss, it's hard not to think the Bucks choked the series away, collapsing down the stretch in the last two games, failing to hit shots that they've hit all year, looking uncomfortable and out-of-control in key moments, and struggling to adjust on both offense and defense. In six games against Toronto, the Bucks only looked like the superior team once: Game 2.
But two things can be true at the same time. And while it's correct the way the season ended was disappointing, it's also accurate that this was the inarguably the best, most exciting Bucks season since 2001 – and maybe the best Bucks season many fans have been alive to see. The Bucks went into this year hoping to maybe make a leap, to finally win a playoff series and maybe be amongst the contenders in the newly LeBron-less East. They did that – and much, much more. They were a thrill to watch all season long – and looking back at this series, we may remember the frustrating conclusion to it all, but we'll also remember all of the incredible excitement and ecstatic fandom it inspired.
And while many questions are now in the air for the Bucks – namely who will Milwaukee resign this offseason amongst Middleton, Brogdon, Hill, Lopez and Mirotic – there is one big answer to take from the 2019-20 season: Yes, the Bucks are real. And we'll be back next year.
Here are nine key images from last night's finale. (Oh, and a prediction: Warriors in five.)
1. Deer Garden in full bloom
Best fans in the NBA.
The team will arrive at Signature Flight Support (923 E Layton Ave) in approx. 2 hrs.
Let's welcome them back to The Good Land!!#FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/qi7tX6oZjH — Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 26, 2019
Though the game was in Toronto, you wouldn't know it walking around the Deer District Saturday night as Bucks fans from all over herded to the Deer Garden and the live block's multiple bars and entertainment options to cheer on Milwaukee. And for about two and a half quarters, they had plenty to cheer about.
2. Scenes from quite the scene
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Win or lose, this journey was made together. Proud of my Milwaukee Bucks. . . . . #howdoyoudowntownmke #mkephotographer #mke #milwaukee #milwaukeebucks #nbaplayoffs #themeccamke #fiservforum #bucks #buckscommunity #dearmke #MKEMyCity #nba #basketball #giannis #raptors #toronto #fearthedeer #milwaukeebucks #greekfreak #nbaplayoffs #deerdistrict #wisconsin #goodcitybrewing #goodcity #playoffs #bucksin6 #punchbowlsocial #nbafinals @journalsentinel @dearmke @bucks @buckscommunity
One of the coolest things to happen this postseason run was watching Milwaukee and Bucks fans embrace the Deer Garden and plaza area, turning the spot into the hottest party in town. (And considering our long wait to summer temperatures, we needed that heat.) While the Bucks' season may be done, the activity and life in the newest part of Brew City is far from extinguished. Here's to a whole season of this kind of energy inside and outside Fiserv Forum next year.
3. Hear us in Canada
You could hear Milwaukee all the way up across the border (probably not but go with me on this) but you can't hear Drake down here.
4. Giannis versus Kawhi: round 6
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Well my opinion on the Bucks , kinda disappointed that the Sixers took Raptors to 7 games and we didn't with the chance for home court advantage, but we did make it past the first round unlike the past few seasons. I hope we learn from this and comeback stronger next year. Definitely expect Giannis to learn more and improve his flaws because he's getting better every year __________________________________ Follow @giannisvibes if you're Giannis fan!! ___________________________________ #giannis#giannisantetokounmpo#greekfreak#bucks#nba#fearthedeer#basketball#mvp#curry#kd#
Yes, "experience" is a hacky sports take-esque argument – but it's hard to deny that, while the Raptors looked calm and comfortable in clutch situations in this series, the Bucks looked panicked and clunky. The team's half-court offense could never figure out Toronto's wall of defense on Giannis – even though Giannis still scored a double-double in Game 6 with 21 points and 11 rebounds – and too many offensive possessions ended in rushed, off-balance shots nobody could want.
The Bucks hadn't been pushed like this for pretty much the entire season – and now they were being pushed by a team made up of players (Leonard, Danny Green, Serge Ibaka) who'd been there before and knew the energy necessary to keep a boot on the neck.
Still, Giannis is about to be named the best player in the league next month, he has an entire off-season to hone his jump shot and three-pointer (which has looked better and better each year) as well as add more to his already ferocious driving skill set, and he's still just 24 years old. Kawhi won this round; we'll see about the next one (though he'll probably be rocking a different jersey).
5. Nothing to be done about Kawhi
For yet another game, Kawhi Leonard put the team on his back and delivered Toronto to the promised land. The Raptors star put in 27 points – many of them in a soul-crushing second half – and snagged 17 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds in clutch moments that served as a dagger to the Bucks' dwindling heart in the final frames. I don't want to scald the internet with a nuclear take, but here it goes: Kawhi Leonard is good at basketball.
6. We'll meet here again
Well, it's certainly possible we'll meet the Raptors again. As for Kawhi, can't wait to see how you do as a Clipper next year! Hope you enjoy your rental, Toronto! Oh, and here's to your hockey teams, Canada!
7. No more questions
The offseason drama started early for the Bucks as Giannis took exception to ESPN reporter Malika Andrews' question about experience and walked right on out of the postgame media session. Was he simply confused by the admittedly cumbersome question? Was he irritated by Andrews, who mere minutes after the Bucks' loss posted a piece on ESPN about Giannis's tenuous future in Milwaukee if a Finals run doesn't happen in these next few years? Was he just grumpy after a devastating loss and wanted to head home? Who knows – but the reaction did give us one positive thing from Game 6 ...
8. Middleton's meme
Between the Brook Lopez feisty clap GIF and now Khris Middleton's confused face after Giannis bailed on the press conference, Milwaukee may have lost the series, but we gained a lot of strong memes. And in the end, what matters more? (The series, obviously.)
9. A deserved reception
Giannis and the Bucks didn't return home with a Game 7 as they hoped, but the hometown fans still gave the team – one of the best regular season teams in franchise history, featuring a likely MVP winner and the second best team in the Eastern Conference – a hero's welcome. To quote the cliche, this may have been the end of the season, but it also feels like just the beginning.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.