As a rule, NBA fans should be excited when their team makes the playoffs. Playoff games have high intensity, enthusiastic crowds, and the underlying sense that something historic is about to happen. Even better: if you make the playoffs you have a non-zero chance of winning the NBA Finals! The Milwaukee Bucks, of course, are usually an exception to this rule.
Since the beginning of the millennium, few teams have been as inept in the playoffs as the Bucks. They have not won a playoff series since 2001 and have not really come particularly close, either. The Bucks have a chance to change their fortune starting on Saturday in Canada against the Toronto Raptors. Before that series starts, let’s take a look back the Bucks playoff history since they last won a series:
2003: (2) New Jersey Nets – (7) Bucks: Nets win 4-2
This is the last Bucks team that had a (somewhat) legitimate shot at making the NBA finals. George Karl’s last Bucks team had Sam Cassell, Michael Redd, and Gary Payton; a trio of players as good as any in the Eastern Conference. Sadly, this trio existed because Ray Allen was traded to the Seattle Supersonics for Gary Payton. Trading Allen was an absolutely terribly move. Allen – one of the best shooters in NBA history – loved playing in Milwaukee, which is not an especially common sentiment in the NBA. The Ray Allen trade essentially sent the Bucks franchise into the vortex of mediocrity. But I digress.
Back to the series, the Bucks won Game 2 in New Jersey and were in prime position to take a 2-1 lead in Game 3 at the Bradley Center. With the game tied 101-101 and seconds remaining, Nets forward Rodney Rogers stepped to the line to shoot a pair of free throws. Rogers missed both shots, only two get his rebound and nail a game-winning 18-foot jumper with 2 seconds remaining. The Bucks would win Game 4, but instead of a commanding 3-1 series lead, the two teams headed back to the Meadowlands with the series tied. The Nets would easily win the next two games.
2004: (3) Detroit Pistons – (6) Bucks: Pistons win 4-1
The Bucks were supposed to be horrible during the 2003-2004 season. Miraculously, they were actually a pretty fun team. Michael Redd was an all-star and Desmond Mason was a consistent source of acrobatic dunks. They were good enough to make the playoffs, but no match for the Pistons – who were one of the greatest defensive teams in NBA history. The Bucks shocked the Pistons by winning Game 2 in Auburn Hills and were frisky in a Game 3 defeat. Despite this, the Pistons easily won games 4 and 5 en route to a NBA crown.
2006: (1) Pistons – (8) Bucks: Pistons win 4-1
We’re now entering an intensely forgettable stretch of Milwaukee Bucks basketball. This Bucks team finished the season with a losing record (40-42) and only made the post-season because league rules require each conference has eight playoff teams. The Pistons made quick work of the Bucks, though Milwaukee throttled Detroit 124-104 in Game 3 behind 40 points from Michael Redd.
2010: (3) Atlanta Hawks – (6) Bucks: Hawks win 4-3
Fun Fact! The Atlanta Hawks used to be the Milwaukee Hawks. This means two professional sports teams relocated from Milwaukee and ended up in Atlanta (The Hawks went to Atlanta via St. Louis).
Unlike every other Bucks team from 2004 until now, the 2010 squad was dangerous heading into the post season. They finished the season with a 46-36 record and won 25 of their last 36 games. This team should have won a playoff series. Unfortunately Andrew Bogut dislocated his elbow with seven games left in the season and threw things off course. Despite this, the Bucks took a 3-2 series lead against the Hawks after stealing Game 5 with a furious 4th quarter rally. The series returned to Milwaukee for Game 6 and the Bucks had a golden chance to finally win a playoff series. Instead they scored a meager 69 points and lost. Their promising season ended a few days later with a 95-74 whimper in Atlanta.
2013: (1) Miami Heat – (8) Bucks: Heat win 4-0
Believe it or not, this 38-44 Bucks was no match for a team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The only notable thing that came from this series was Brandon Jennings predicting the Bucks were “Gonna Win In Six.” That prediction did not come true, though to be fair the Bucks did outscore the Heat in 3 of the 16 quarters played.
2015: (3) Chicago Bulls – (6) Bucks: Bulls win 4-2
This was a surprisingly entertaining series. The Bulls easily won the first two games, but ran into trouble when the series moved to Milwaukee. The Bulls needed overtime to win Game 3 and the Bucks got a signature win at the buzzer in Game 4. The Bucks handled the Bulls in Game 5 in Chicago, and all of a sudden it looked like a historic comeback might be brewing. This was not the case. A fired-up Bradley Center crowd had literally nothing to cheer about in Game 6 as the Bulls eviscerated the Bucks 120-66 (your read that score correctly). The enduring image of this game (and series) was Giannis Antetokounmpo getting ejected for tackling Mike Dunleavy in the second quarter. While we all love the Greek Freak, let’s hope he does tackle anybody in the Toronto.