I decided to venture into the Milwaukee night to watch the first Milwaukee Bucks playoff game since the Miami Heat dispatched of them with great ease in 2013.
Here’s what it was like.
5:52: I have entered Major Goolsby’s and I’m now sitting at a table. I remember coming to a Bucks playoff viewing party here on April 23, 2013. I remember the date, because it was my birthday and I wasn’t excited about spending it watching Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings miss 40 shots while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade connected on alley-oop after alley-oop.
The bar was almost full that night. The bar is not full right now. As I sit, I see six tables with patrons at them around me. One is a family that will absolutely be clearing out before the first quarter is done. The other five tables have groups of dudes at them. The dudes are probably here to watch hoops. Good dudes.
I’ve ordered chicken wings. Hot.
5:58: The wings have arrived. I can’t believe how fast they arrived. I’ll be done with the wings before the first quarter is out and then I’ll have to be the weird guy sitting around without food or drink for the next two hours. I’ll also be on a laptop.
I’ll have to get drinks.
6:09: The game is about to start and I’m actually excited about it. For whatever reason, I’ve had problems connecting with the team this season. I haven’t been excited about wins or bothered by losses. It’s a weird, transitional season. My feeling is that there’s too much media, too much coverage and too much of a “message” about the team being pounded into my head all the time. All I hear about is owning the future, so all I really care about is the guy who I know will be part of that future – Giannis.
But the playoffs feel different. I want to see a great game and I want to see the Bucks pull it out against the Bulls. There’s at least a 40% chance it’s because I hate Chicago.
6:18: The game has started. Giannis has made two layups and a third layup where he went under the hoop and tried a reverse looked fantastic, but didn’t quite go in. I want him to score 30 points. Each possession that doesn’t include him touching the ball feels like a waste, especially when those possessions are just MCW post-ups that end up in fairly quick shots. It’s not that I’m opposed to MCW post-ups, it’s just that I think he should use that as a tool for passing, the way Kendall Marshall did and the way Khris Middleton often does.
MORE GIANNIS ALWAYS.
6:28: There’s 2:51 to play in the first quarter and the score is 25-24 Chicago. I expected that to be the score 2:51 into the second quarter. The Bucks are shooting 68.8% and the Bulls are shooting 71.4%. Chaos.
6:34: Aaron Brooks hit a buzzer beater to put Chicago up 30-29 after one. A Carl’s Jr. commercial with a hot chick eating a burger that looks like the worst burger of all time came on shortly after. This has been Carl’s Jr.’s thing for a while: Hot chick eating their burgers. But I’ve never seen a burger in these commercials that I’d let anyone I cared about eat. Not because they look unhealthy – I’m all about unhealthy – but because they all look disgusting. Who is in charge of burger toppings at this place? Take away his topping freedom. He must be stopped.
6:45: Bench scoring has been an issue for the post-Brandon Knight Bucks and this game hasn’t been any different. A bench heavy lineup (Bayless-Mayo-Giannis-Dudley-Henson) has struggled badly to open the second quarter. Mayo and Dudley both missed wide open threes. Henson turned it over on a drive. Bayless hasn’t been finding Giannis, who really should be catching and attacking often with this lineup.
This can’t happen all series long. 30-29 quickly turned into 39-32.
7:02: 53-49 Bulls. 2:54 to play in the second quarter. Derrick Rose and MCW are blowing by each other a lot, with and without help from screeners. The big difference between these two thus far? Rose is setting his teammates up with more frequency. He’s finding guys in the corners and hitting them with skip passes. He’s using his dribble and player movement to get open looks for Jimmy Butler and company. MCW has done this a couple times, but not with the same frequency. Rose has four assists and one turnover, MCW has three turnovers and one assist. Those numbers are fairly instructive.
If MCW can combine his attacks with some more creativity and willingness to find teammates in the second half, he’ll really be onto something.
7:16: It is halftime. The Bucks trail by nine. Milwaukee trailed by one after an MCW layup with 3:28 to play and scored just two points the rest of the quarter. They missed four free throws over that stretch, two each from MCW and Ersan.
Ersan has been terrific for most of the second half of the season and they’ll need him to be that guy over the course of this series. So far tonight, he’s 3-8 FG with seven points and one rebound. He’ll need to be better than that in the second half.
I have four chicken wings left and I don’t intend to finish them. I’m now faced with a decision. Do I stick around or do I head out? There hasn’t been an influx of new customers, so I don’t feel like I’m taking up precious real estate here. I’m inclined to stick around. People here are cheering for good things and booing bad things and the vibe is good. If Milwaukee can make a run in the second half, I could even envision high fives being exchanged.
7:48: Rose has started hitting threes. All hope is lost. He has three in the third quarter. It’s no longer light outside and this bar feels dark and cold. The playoffs are no fun.
7:50: THIS IS DERRICK ROSE’S FIRST PLAYOFF GAME IN THREE YEARS. HE WAVED HIS HANDS WHEN HE CAME OUT EARLIER. THE CROWD GOT EXCITED. THIS IS DERRICK ROSE’S FIRST PLAYOFF GAME IN THREE YEARS. THIS IS DERRICK ROSE’S FIRST PLAYOF….
The Bucks are down 14.
He got up and made a cross and said a prayer. THE BUCKS ARE PLAYING THE BULLS AND GOD, SO OF COURSE NO TRAVEL WAS CALLED. How do they have a chance?
8:02: The ratio of fans calling for travels to actual travels called has to be over 50 to 1.
8:15: Giannis just dunked the ball. That was his second shot attempt of the second half. All I want to see the Bucks do is get the ball to Giannis and Khris Middleton over and over. Let them shoot. Let them drive. Let them pass. Every time I watch Jerryd Bayless shoot a long jump shot, I just get sad. He’s been brutal for quite a while and it feels like he’s been very prominently involved in the second half. He hasn’t actually been bad in this game – he’s 4-7 FG with 11 points and four assists as I write this – but Milwaukee’s offense when he’s heading it up seems incredibly easy for the Bulls to defend.
8:20: The Bulls have now extended their lead to 16 points on the back of a Mike Dunleavy corner three that came after Rose drove into a wall of defenders, jumped, hovered and threw an overhead soccer style pass into his open arms. Sigh. I’m leaving.
Rose looks like he’s going to be a problem. The Bucks better start thinking of some solutions before game two.