Could the Milwaukee Bucks Miss the NBA Playoffs?
Could the Milwaukee Bucks Miss the NBA Playoffs?

In a turn of events as surprising as the Bucks success in the first part of the season, Milwaukee is now in serious danger of missing the playoffs entirely.

Milwaukee has spent the bulk of the season as the sixth seed, and even looked at one point to have a chance to make it into eighth.

But the last two weeks have seen a crucial shift in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Washington Wizards, after freefalling through most of January and February, have regained form and won five straight. And the Bucks have done the opposite, losing four straight and eight of the last ten games.

Even worse for the Bucks and their fans, four East teams that started off the season horribly have caught fire and are now right on Milwaukee’s heels.

The Miami Heat, winners of six of their last ten games, are now only 2.5 games behind the Bucks thanks to the resurgence of Dwyane Wade. The red hot Indiana Pacers might have already caught up to the Bucks if not for their recent three-game losing streak. Along with the Pacers, the Boston Celtics are just 3.5 games behind Milwaukee. And the Charlotte Hornets lurk just a half-game behind them.

If Milwaukee’s woes continue, then the playoff picture could end with the Bucks on the outside looking in, a prospect coach Jason Kidd is aware of.

“You have to put more effort into the game,” Kidd said after the Bucks’ 114-103 home loss to San Antonio on Wednesday.

“I think we have 14 games left. There’s plenty of time. You take it one game at a time. We’re in the sixth spot. We have to continue to get better, and we have to continue to get healthy.”

Strength of schedule and the number of home games versus away games play a big part this time of the season, with less than 20 games left. But the Bucks’ recent losses have been to teams including the Lakers and Nuggets, sporting two of the worst records in the league. 

The primary issue is All-Star break trade, which saw leading scorer and starting point guard Brandon Knight depart and newcomer Michael Carter-Williams take his place. The Bucks are 4-11 since the break, are scoring less points, generating fewer assists and steals, committing more turnovers, and shooting worse than before the break, when they went 30-23.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Tuesday, March. 17, 2015, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Tuesday, March. 17, 2015, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

 

Milwaukee executives say the trade was more about the future than this season, and Carter-Williams does look in many respects like a better point guard than Knight. But fans and players surely want to at least taste the playoffs this season, in order to build more experience for the next one when expectations will be higher.

“You couldn’t ask for a better situation for us as a team, as a coaching staff and as players,” Kidd said, referring to the Bucks young core. “Being young and understanding the importance of each possession going forward, because this time of the year everyone’s fighting for something, if it’s a lottery pick or if it’s for seeding…. These are all-important minutes for our team to go through.”

The good news? The Bucks control their own destiny. Although the lead over the five teams behind them–the Brooklyn Nets are still within range of a playoff spot–has decreased, Milwaukee can ensure it stays there with a healthy number of wins. And out of the Bucks remaining 14 games, nine are at home, where Milwaukee has played much better this season. 

Key games are against those teams trying to get ahead of the Bucks, including a road game against the Nets, a home game against the Pacers, and a home game against the Celtics.

Eastern Conference standings as of Friday, March 20. (NBA.com)
Eastern Conference standings as of Friday, March 20. (NBA.com)

 

See the full schedule for each team below.

Bucks:

@ Nets
vs Cavaliers
vs Heat
vs Pacers
vs Warriors
@ Hawks
vs Bulls
@ Celtics
vs Magic
vs Cavaliers
@ Knicks
vs Nets
@76ers
vs Celtics

Heat:

vs Nuggets
@ Thunder
@ Bucks
@ Celtics
@ Hawks
vs Pistons
vs Spurs
@ Cavaliers
@ Pistons
@ Pacers
vs Hornets
vs Bulls
vs Raptors
vs Magic
@76ers

Celtics:

@ Spurs
vs Pistons
@ Nets
vs Heat
@ Knicks
vs Clippers
@ Hornets
vs Pacers
vs Bucks
@ Raptors
@ Pistons
@ Cavaliers
vs Cavaliers
vs Raptors
@ Bucks

Pacers:

@ Cavaliers
vs Nets
vs Rockets
@ Wizards
@ Bucks
vs Mavericks
@ Nets
@ Celtics
vs Hornets
vs Heat
@ Knicks
@ Pistons
vs Thunder
vs Wizards
@ Grizzlies

Hornets:

@ Kings
@ Timberwolves
@ Bulls
vs Nets
@ Wizards
vs Hawks
vs Celtics
vs Pistons
@ Pacers
vs 76ers
@ Heat
vs Raptors
@ [email protected] Pistons
vs Rockets
@ Raptors

Nets

@ Bucks
@ Pacers
vs Celtics
@ Hornets
vs Cavaliers
vs Lakers
vs Pacers 
@ Knicks
vs Raptors
@ Hawks
vs Trail Blazers
vs Hawks
vs Wizards
@ Bucks
vs Bulls
vs Magic

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