Imagine a casual, naïve Bucks fan, randomly tuning into a game that happens to fit into your downtime schedule. Boom, it’s the home victory against Detroit that capped off an unbelievable March. It’s an OT thriller featuring automatic Thon Maker clutch corner threes and a 28-14-9 line from the Greek Freak. That unawares fan enjoyed the game, but alas, was gravely bothered by the Bucks’ forfeiture of an 18-point first quarter lead. Is his disappointment understandable: yes. Should it overshadow the win: hell no.
You and me, we aren’t the type of fans to catch a game here or there. We make sure that our downtime schedules match up with the game, and we make early preparations just in case it goes into triple OT (*flashback to pulling an all-nighter for poorly planned studying time after that classic Jason Kidd vs. The Nets Executives matchup*). We watched nearly every game during the impressive 14-4 March span. The Detroit game showed more than an inability to maintain a big lead; it showed determination, fight, and most notably, heart.
I put my foot on the gas, head on the floor / Hoppin’ out before the vehicle crash, I’m on a roll
After that fiery Milwaukee-Detroit showdown, Giannis Antetokounmpo shared some memorable insight about a one-on-one he had with Thon Maker: “I told him… ‘If you hesitate, I’m going to punch you. So, shoot the ball whenever you get it.’” First and foremost, that’s hilarious and Giannis is the man. Second, and much more importantly, this all-too-storybook comment encapsulates the Bucks’ best self – a team whose players hold each other accountable for his fair share. For Giannis, fair is a stuffed box score. For Thon, fair is high-energy plays and hitting on open corner threes.
Any team that hopes to play well by the time the postseason rolls around must have their players’ roles clearly defined. With mid-season trades (peace, Plums) and inconsistent rotations finally in the rearview mirror, Bucks players seem to know their jobs and do them well.
JET is the three-point threat and rowdy vet. Tony Snell is the 3-and-D specialist, and nothing more. Moose is the sixth man and enforcer who eats reserve centers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A team with cemented roles and encouraging, team-first players is a scary, scary thing.
I’m fresh out the water I’m ‘bout to breach… / The five foot giant woke up out of his sleep
Everything is clicking at the best time. Milwaukee is comprised of seven-foot giants that opponents never knew they were intimidated by. They have the ability to be the token sneaky good lower seed that catches teams off-guard this year. Let me make this clear though: The Bucks are nowhere near as good as the Cavs, Celts, or Raps. No matter, this just means that the Bucks have zero to lose while the others have everything.
The richer the poorer, the bigger the picture / The more blood pours
Giannis is Giannis, and that’s an amazing start to any potential playoff upset. Regular season Giannis is a sight unlike any other. He breaks records and joins company that, sometimes, just consist of him! It’s unfair to even think about asking, but nothing really seems fair in Bucks World: Is there a Playoff Giannis?
I don’t even know how that would work, honestly. The Greek Freak is already so good at everything besides shooting, which isn’t a skill that’ll magically appear once Saturday comes. Or will it? It probably won’t, but hell, who am I to limit the Greek God himself. Anyway, if Giannis’s abilities are enhanced any further, I’m not positive that this man can be contained to a basketball court.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, without hesitation, is the heart of this 2016-2017 Milwaukee Bucks team. Without him, the Bucks lose their top scorer, rebounder, passer, blocker, and stealer. His teammates feed off of his highlights, adjust their positions and movements to amplify his, and just generally live or die off of his playmaking ability. Despite the “Khris returns and Jabari leaves” storyline, Giannis is the one steady factor whose play could singlehandedly excel the Bucks to victories.
You jumped sides on me, now you ‘bout to meet Westbrook [Antetokounmpo]
Today’s Buck team has come a long way. They pushed passed your and my preseason predictions, which likely slotted them somewhere between awful and okay. They overcame a horrible turn-of-events injury for Jabari Parker, who will return stronger than ever. They crawled out of a 22-30 deficit during a road-heavy late season schedule. They turned that crawl into a walk, that walk into a jog, and that jog into a runner’s sprint.
The Milwaukee Bucks are not great, and won’t be anything of the like during the playoffs. But goddamn, this team has heart. They will fight until their end, possession after possession, leaving everything on the court. This is the Milwaukee team we’ve been waiting for.
Lyrics from “The Heart Part 4” by Kendrick Lamar