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Seventh seed or bust? Breaking down the Milwaukee Bucks final 13 games

| March 26, 2013

Category: Playoff talk

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Special guest post from Mitch Vomhof today looking at Milwaukee’s schedule the rest of the way. – J

With some good fortune, the Bucks could be doing battle with Indiana in the first round instead of the Heat. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

With 13 games left in the NBA season, playoff races and end-of-year scenarios are starting to play out for teams across the league. After Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Bucks sit at 34-35, squarely in 8th place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. At this time, it’s a nearly foregone conclusion that they will make the playoffs given a seven-game lead over ninth-place Philadelphia. The real question is whether the Bucks can make up a two-game deficit on seventh-seeded Boston and avoid a killer match-up with the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Of course, when a sixth or seventh seed means a match-up with the Knicks and Pacers, it’s hard to get excited about the team’s prospects, especially after the waxing the Pacers delivered the other night. But a winning season and a playoff series that they can push to five, six, or even seven games would go a significant way toward reassuring disgruntled fans and giving the team a sense of what moves to make in the off-season.

We can basically break down the Bucks’ remaining schedule into three categories: Games the Bucks Should Win (Emphasis on should because, well, you know), Games the Bucks Will Probably Lose, and Tossups.

Games the Bucks Should Win:

Wednesday, March 27 @ Philadelphia 76ers – The Bucks own this season series 3-0 and the Sixers were trending downward even before the news broke that Andrew Bynum’s knees required surgery and he’d miss the rest of the season.

Monday, April 1 vs. Charlotte Bobcats, Saturday, April 13 @ Bobcats – The Bucks and Cats have split the season series 1-1 so far, but one of these teams has something to play for while the Bobcats are headed to the lottery again. They may be good soon with all of those high picks, but the Bucks should sweep the rest of this season series.

Saturday, April 7 vs. Toronto Raptors – Two wins against the Raps already and Rudy Gay might be shut down for the season by the time this game is played.

Wednesday, April 10 @ Orlando Magic – The J.J. Redick trade seemed to signal the raising of the white flag for the Magic, who are now playing for the future rather than the present. Tobias Harris has been a pleasant surprise (cue every Bucks fan banging head against anything nearby) now that he’s getting regular minutes and the Magic have flashed some talent, but they are the definition of a “Should Beat” team right now.

Games the Bucks Will Probably Lose:

Thursday, March 28 vs Los Angeles Lakers – Playing the Lakers on the second night of an away/home back-to-back? The Bucks had their hands full (and lost by 16) in the first match-up, where the Lakers were without Pau Gasol and not playing particularly well. A full-strength and more cohesive Lakers team (10-5 since the All-Star Break) doesn’t bode well for the Bucks’ chances in this game.

Saturday, March 30 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, – The second-best team in the NBA. Even at home, this is a brutal game for the Bucks and I’m not sure that even the encouragement of a Vanilla Ice halftime show can spur them on to a win. But this game has Kevin Durant AND Vanilla Ice … what more could you want?

Tuesday, April 9 @ Miami Heat – “The Bucks match up well with the Heat” was a pretty common narrative in the first half when the Bucks played the defending champs close in the first game and stole a win in the second. That talk quieted when the Heat rolled into Milwaukee on March 15 and won easily. The only hope the Bucks have here is that the Heat decide to go easy on their starters because they’ve already locked up the #1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. But if this whole winning streak that the Heat are on is still rolling then, this would be record breaking game number 34. I THINK THEY’LL PROBABLY PLAY EVERYONE.

Friday, April 12 @ Atlanta Hawks – The Bucks can’t buy a win against Atlanta this year, which is especially damning because those Hawks were within catching distance for most of the year. After Sunday’s debacle ending, it’s hard to envision the Bucks pulling one out in Atlanta for the first time this year.

Monday, April 15 vs. Denver Nuggets – What George Karl has done with the superstarless Nuggets is outstanding. The Nuggets seem to be the team the Bucks wish they could be – smart, efficient, fast, tough defensively, winning games on a regular basis, etc. Not even a career game from Sam Dalembert (35 points, 12 rebounds) could keep the Bucks from losing the last time these two teams faced off, and I don’t think we’ll see that happen again against a deep team that looks more dangerous the longer their win streak continues.

Tossups:

Wednesday, April 3 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves – The Bucks lost a tough game to the Timberwolves early in the season, which prevents me from putting this into the “Should Win” category. A lot of this game hinges on Kevin Love’s availability – he’s been out since February 27 with a broken hand and the results of a recent CT scan will go a long way toward determining his availability for the rest of the season. If Love is out, the Bucks will have a much easier time with this game.

Friday, April 5 vs. New York Knicks – It’s hard to get a read on whether this is a good match-up for the Bucks. On one hand, the Knicks are without Amar’e Stoudamire until at least the playoffs due to his own knee problems, and are generally banged up in the frontcourt with Tyson Chandler, Kurt Thomas, and Rasheed Wallace missing time for various reasons. On the other hand, they do have Carmelo Anthony, who has played at a near-MVP level the entire season and averaged 27 points against the Bucks in their two meetings so far this year.

Wednesday, April 17 @ Oklahoma City Thunder – Yes, we’re being generous here. This game gets bumped from a “Probably Lose” to a “Tossup” because the Thunder will likely be resting their starters for the playoffs. Unfortunately, a match-up of the Bucks versus the Thunder bench is far from a guaranteed victory.

The Bucks may end up really needing the Thunder to rest this guy on the last night of the regular season. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Overall, this breakdown gives us a 6-7 or 7-6 record for the remainder of the Bucks’ season (splitting the tossup games evenly).  The Bucks’ remaining opponents this season have a .486 winning percentage, which is coincidentally almost exactly the same as the Bucks’ (.494). The best-case scenario, it would seem at this point, is that the Bucks stay around .500 or climb a few games above by the end of the regular season. If that happens, they’ll need some help from the Celtics, who have lost four straight and are without Kevin Garnett right now, to climb into the seventh spot in the East and avoid a Miami matchup in the first round of the playoffs.

Speaking of the Celtics, they don’t exactly have a cakewalk the rest of the way. Their schedule is comparable to the Bucks’: Two games against the Knicks, Miami, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Indiana, and even the Cleveland Cavaliers could be stumbling blocks for an aging and depleted Boston team. If the Bucks end up a game or two over .500, they could very well find themselves in that treasured seventh spot.

It’s entirely possible that circumstances may change as the season winds down – injuries happen all the time or playoff teams/lottery teams may rest their starters as they have nothing to gain. However, as things currently stand, the Bucks will likely end up exactly where we thought they would be: an eight seed with a quick exit from the playoffs and another set of hard decisions to be made in the off-season.

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About the Author ()

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in January of 2009 because he hated his job. It’s like basketball, but with Bucks instead of basket. I know ... I’m sorry. He might come off as a bit negative, but I'm really not so bad. He just wants the Bucks to succeed, so he points out areas where they are coming up short. Someone has got to do it and he's ornery and opinionated enough to take on that task. He isn't sure if this should be in third person or not. Contact him at Jeremy@Bucksketball.com if you must use e-mail.

Comments (10)

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  1. Patti #1 says:

    Nice analysis of the rest of the schedule. Keeping everyone healthy and in the game, they can still get 7th seed. No more injuries. No more technical foul ejections. Just play the darn game as a team. And play defense. And move without the ball. And get those offensive rebounds. And play at a fast pace. And attack the rim. And make your free throws.

    Go Bucks!

  2. Kevin says:

    I’m not sure how much better off we’d be playing the Pacers than the Heat at this point. Optimally we manage to get the sixth seed and play New York in the first round, but that seems far from likely.

    At least with Miami, I think we have some chances to match up a little better than we would with Indiana and all their size. Hopefully we can get Mbah a Moute back, because having Daniels guard LeBron isn’t going to be the answer.

    • apdamico says:

      I’m pretty certain we are the only team, in the division, to have beaten the Pacers. They are a physical team and I doubt we could shoot any worst than the last game. Not saying it’s a match made in heaven, but better than facing the Heat. Personally, I rather if we were the 7th seed and facing the Knicks! To me that would be the best case scenario for taking at least a game or two.

  3. hoops dribbler says:

    it does not really matter who the Bucks play- they need in the next two weeks to change player attitudes (by coaching or by benching) One thought is to play Elis, Jenings and Redick less, and not all three at the same time. On the inside there are enough players if used properly.
    Abu Mute is an inside player- he should not be shooting 3′s but stay with his inside game. From a coahcing perpsective- the team should match up with its oppositon. Each player shoud recognize his opponent and what he does. The inside game on defense gets lost because the second defender does not get position, block out and deny when the first defender reaches for driving player or the post up inside player
    The players must be unselfish and play as team
    this team has the player mix- it needs to adjust its attitude

  4. happyfeethustle says:

    Are you OUT THERE ….Sfisch? You’ll want to hear this.

    I WAS W R O N G! Yep…kills me to admit it- WRONG, ME..WRONG.

    watched replay of Heat at Magic late last nite espn2… Tobias showed some legitimate scoring ability. Mostly jumpshots-a few 3ptr.s, not much slashing/scoring at basket. If Redick cannot be retained for 3-5 yrs. the TRADE isnt as good as I 1st thought. With sooooo many “shooters” on our roster, was hard to get minutes for T.Harris here-at least thats how it seems. Also, he seems sort of LOST on defensive end-which probably EARNED him the bench from S. Skiles early on this season. If his D improves ( which it could-he’s young), he may very well end up a 20-6-3 player. that will be painful to see!

    OUCH…. Im staying positive though

    Go BUCKS Go

    • Sfisch says:

      Thank you happyfeethustle.

      It’ll take a couple years or longer to assess
      Tobias, but he does seem to pass the eye-test,
      as I think Jeff Van Gundy said during that game
      with the Heat. I really thought he could be a
      significant help to the Bucks even this year.
      I was really sad to lose him for the future.

      Anyway, all of this blogging is in good fun, and
      we’re all big fans of the Bucks as well. Look forward
      to having many more fervent but good-natured discussions
      with all the good people who post on this site.
      (By the way, good to see SillyBilly back.) I really
      do learn a lot from others here, and have a good time.

      So, in sincere unison with happyfeethustle, I heartily
      say: “Go BUCKS Go”

    • RazorBladePeach says:

      I personally loved your piece on the parallels between jon voight’s acting career and the history of the bucks. I was shocked to see how closely the brief success of voight coincided with that of milwaukee’s. I only ask, what on earth prompted this thought? Lol.

      Bucks-related: It’s really a shame that this team hasn’t found a way to win consistently. It seems that we have enough talent to get to the playoffs in a watered-down conference. However, every team in front of us has an identity. What are the bucks? We used to rely more on defense, because we couldn’t score. Now, we have scorers, but neither one of them will commit to team defense. Brandon jennings must be traded this summer for assets. He’s too small and too weak to compete with nearly all the point guards on both ends of the floor. Monte isn’t young after coming straight from high school, but he seems to have some kind of semblance as to how to run a team on the floor. He also has more size. I don’t know if he’s the answer there, but brandon is not. I love ers, but he needs to find a way to create his own shot. Henson is too small atm to be considered a starter. What’s up with udoh? If larry continues to hone his game and play within himself, he’ll be an all star caliber player.

      • RazorBladePeach says:

        There are just too many questions about this team to get excited, and it’s so frustrating as a kid that grew up watching the big three. Unless we do something huge in the off season (possible with a fair amount of cap space if they trade brandon and amnesty dwight) this will be an annual event; bowing out of the playoffs in round one. If we get that far…