More than a feeling

There are a lot of reasons why it isn’t so cool that the Milwaukee Bucks have started this season 13-18.

But that doesn’t mean there are no positives associated with it if you look hard enough.

Like so many teams over the years, Milwaukee finished last season so well and made enough apparent improvements this off-season that they headed into this season with a role they hadn’t had before.  No longer was Milwaukee the plucky underdog, they were something of a favorite.  Maybe they weren’t Boston, Orlando or Miami, but they were somebody.  For a team that had adopted the, “nobody believed in us!” rallying cry for the majority of last season, this was quite a switch.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise then when Milwaukee didn’t really handle it so well.  Earlier in the season, when Milwaukee was dropping games that seemed easily winnable, some of the comments from the Bucks told the story of a favorite struggling with their role.  After a loss to a Philadelphia team that was 2-10 coming in, Andrew Bogut remarked, “I think we came into this game knowing their record.”

Now, months later, Milwaukee is the team with the record that precedes them.

Of late, some of the best efforts from the Bucks have been with their backs up against a wall.  In Los Angeles a Lakers win seemed a foregone conclusion, but the Bucks shocked many with a double digit win of their own.  That came on the heels of a road win against the Mavericks in Dallas and everything but a win in San Antonio where it took a Manu Ginobili buzzer beater to stop the Bucks.

Much like they did last season, Milwaukee has thrived when they’ve been most written off this season.  Is there a correlation?

“If you’re looking for things externally to get you motivated … when you become a professional that’s the time when you should be at a pretty even keel,” Coach Skiles said before Saturday’s game.  “You should play just about the same every single day, there shouldn’t be the ups and downs.”

Of course on a team that’s been full of ups and downs this season, he recognized that those inconsistencies are a sign that the team simply isn’t where they want to be.

“That doesn’t mean that everybody always does that,” he said.  “You know, [they’re] human beings.  But that should be the goal.  When you get there, is normally when you have a really good club.  Normally when you start playing really well is when there’s cretin things you can count on every night form every guy and like a lot of teams we’re trying to work towards that goal.”

The biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s team in terms of wins Coach Skiles said, has been that this season’s team hasn’t beaten, “the teams they are supposed to beat.”  That early loss to Philadelphia was apart of a five game losing streak in which the team dropped games to Philly, an Oklahoma City team without Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, Cleveland and Detroit.  Had Milwaukee taken care of those games, they’d be looking at a record nearly flipped.

But here Milwaukee sits, five games under .500 with three more very difficult games remaining this week before their schedule begins to soften.  While it’s unlikely Milwaukee pulls out any of the three Florida games, they could put together another unlikely performance and reel one in to keep within six games of .500 with their schedule easing up, just like they did last season.

Milwaukee’s late season run after being written off last season came during a home heavy February and March and the Bucks face a similarly soft schedule in those months this year. So long as the Bucks maintain through January and don’t nosedive, they will likely be heading into Spring with a similar record and that same underdog feeling that served them so well a year ago.

Whether the results will be as kind remains to be seen.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog  Follow him on Twitter.  Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).

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