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The Search for Bucks Optimism
In the face of the longest of odds, playoff basketball returns to Milwaukee.

So unless you were a cockeyed optimist, perhaps in the mold of “Seinfeld’s” Billy Mumphrey, this is about what you expected from the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff trip to Miami, right?

Blown out in the second half of Game 1. Blown out in the fourth quarter of Game 2. Returning to Milwaukee having lost both games by a combined 35 points. They haven’t held a second-half lead. They’ve won exactly one of the eight quarters – Tuesday’s third – and even that was by exactly one point.

Well, at least Miami’s star player can’t get his own technical fouls reversed.


It’s almost as if the Bucks are playing a team of historically good proportions, one with nearly twice as many regular-season wins as Milwaukee. And it’s almost as if the Bucks made the playoffs not on the strength of their record, but because NBA rules require eight teams from the Eastern Conference, even if that eighth team finished six games below .500.

And against that backdrop, the Bucks will host Miami Thursday night, hopeful of some type of boost from a raucous home crowd. Much like the one they got during that Fear the Deer run in 2010.

These Bucks have not generated those feel-good vibes of 2010, and those Atlanta Hawks were certainly not on the level of these Miami Heat. But it’s worth remembering how Milwaukee returned home from Atlanta down 0-2 after a pair of 10-point losses, and re-energized by the homecoming, won the next three games before falling in 7.

So the Bucks are doing what they can to remind folks. They’re filming peppy messages from Brandon Jennings, he of the Bucks in 6 prediction. They’re planning game day pep rallies outside the BMO Harris Bradley Center. They’re searching for more cockeyed optimists, you might say a simple Midwestern crowd that gets mixed up in the high-stakes game of playoff basketball and NBA intrigue.

It is what they should do, of course. Playoff opportunities have been rare in Milwaukee, so the Bucks should try to make the most of them, even those accompanied by the longest of odds. Were Milwaukee to eliminate the Heat, history would remember it as the greatest playoff upset the NBA has ever seen.

So it takes a few cockeyed optimists to think it could happen. They have to put their faith not in the first two playoff games, but the last 15 regular-season ones against the Heat. Milwaukee won seven of those contests, including four of the last eight, and two of the eight losses came in overtime.

But it’s the playoffs when things get real, and reality dictates the Bucks will be fortunate to win a game or two. Miami really is that good. The skills of LeBron James and friends go far beyond talking referees out of technical fouls. The Bucks are outmatched and forced to look for small victories – keeping effort high and games close – while the Heat are focused solely on the big picture.

Overcoming all of that is a whole lot to ask from even the optimists, be they from Milwaukee or Mumphreyville. 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet as howiemag. And listen to me chat sports with Mitch Teich monthly on WUWM's "Lake Effect."

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