We could rehash everything that went wrong in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 120-66 game six, season-ending loss to the Chicago Bulls, but when a team suffers a 54 point season-ending loss, what’s really the point in reflecting on it.
Before I tell you two stories, I’ll just note these things about the game:
- Chicago started the game on an 8-0 run and never looked back. They difference in aggression, confidence and poise was evident from the outset. Chicago looked like a veteran team that had rediscovered everything that had ever made it a contender. The Bucks looked unsure of themselves and without a player capable of calming the team’s nerves and asserting control on the game.
- While the Bulls figuratively came out and punched Milwaukee right in the face, Mike Dunleavy literally came out and punched Milwaukee right in the face. It will be interesting to see if he hears from the league about his cheap shot on Michael Carter-Williams to kick off the game. Cheap shots are part of Dunleavy’s career. He kept it up throughout the night, and it led to a few technical fouls on the Bucks and the ejection of the typically mild-mannered Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- Zaza Pachulia led the Bucks with eight points. Eight! No one on the Bucks had enough points that we’re even supposed to use numbers to describe their points!
Everything fell apart quickly and never came back together for the Bucks. The 54-point margin was the largest in franchise history, and the 66 points they scored was the fewest they’ve ever scored in a playoff game.
But I promised we wouldn’t rehash the chaos too much and that I would tell two stories.
The first happened last Saturday night after the Bucks pulled off an improbable buzzer-beater victory in game four. Those were good times. After Jerryd Bayless executed his juke move, after Jared Dudley fired one of the best passes you’ll see, and after Bayless had finished the layup I found myself at a local watering hole. There was a group of fans who on and off chanted Bucks in seven throughout the evening. It was a funny thing to happen and not something typical of Milwaukeeans, who haven’t always been real vocal about supporting the Bucks. But this was the playoffs, so I wasn’t too shocked to see people getting into the Bucks, especially after a win like that over the Bulls. So the chant wasn’t surprising.
I was caught off guard during a lull between chants. I headed to the bathroom, and a number of the chanters were in there, along with other patrons. Four or five conversations were taking place about the Bucks between some people who knew each other and some people who were strangers. Eventually everyone started discussing Brandon Knight vs. Michael Carter-Williams. Right away a couple of the guys in there were complaining about the trade, reciting the usual lines about how much better a shooter BK was and how Milwaukee’s offense hadn’t been the same with MCW. But quickly a few of the guys said that the trade wasn’t about today. It was about tomorrow. Finally, the team was building for the future, and that was great.
And the BK dissenters agreed. There was no argument! All of these people suddenly were on the same page and were fired up that the team was looking forward. Instead of typical sports fan fighting, it’s like they had all gone to Bucks messaging boot camp. I thought they were going to end the conversation by putting their hands in the middle and yelling #OWNTHEFUTURE.
It was amazing to me that seven or eight people were all willing to accept after a playoff game that a team had probably downgraded at point guard for the sake of the future. It demonstrated patience these fans were willing to show that you don’t often hear in public.
But Bucks fans did another thing, this time Thursday night that demonstrated to me that they’re on board for this whole future thing.
Everyone in the BC on Thursday night had a right to be very disappointed. Milwaukee got blown away, and the game was never competitive. Those tickets weren’t cheap, the game started early enough that getting there was a hassle, and it’s still too cold outside, dammit. But as the seconds ticked away in the final minute of the game, virtually every person in the crowd joined in on a Mil-Wau-Kee, chant. The crowd was on its feet, giving a collective tip of the hat to a Bucks team that just lost a playoff game by 54 points.
It was a salute for an impressive season. From 16 to 41 wins. From eighth seed or bust to patience is the plan. This season’s Milwaukee Bucks were a product of a different organization. There’s no question Milwaukee is heading in a different direction in April of 2015 than it was when it last made the playoffs in April of 2013. Bucks fans took the long view on Thursday night because the organization has demonstrated this season that they’ll be doing the same.
That’s the sort of thing that makes a 54-point loss sting just a little bit less.