A year after the worst season in franchise history the Milwaukee Bucks are back in the playoffs following a 96-73 win over the Brooklyn Nets who have problems of their own, led by Jason Kidd who gets to be the first second-year coach to lead two different teams into the postseason.
Kidd’s previous team? The Nets. Setting aside why and how he left, it’s hard to ignore his success with a team that unlike the one he coached last year, had zero expectations when it comes to postseason success. The Bucks have had a rough second half to this season, but they’ve won two in a row to clinch the sixth spot in the East, what should have happened a long time ago.
The Nets, in the meantime, fall to 8th in the East with a 37-43 record. This puts them even with the Pacers who are ninth and one game behind the Boston Celtics (38-42), on the verge of claiming one of the two remaining spots. The Nets didn’t look like a team that has the season riding on the result of this game, falling apart in the second half, getting outscored 53-32.
The Nets shot just 32.5% from the field and 16.7% from beyond the arc, by far the best and most efficient defensive performance by the Bucks this season. Not that the Bucks shot all that well from long range or kept their turnovers to a minimum, but they punished the Nets for their 21 turnovers and their misses as only Brook Lopez with 12 points reached double figures among starting lineup players.
Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks with 21 points, O.J. Mayo added 17 points off the bench and Khris Middleton scored 16. The Bucks are the first team since the Miami Heat in 2009 to rebound from having the worst record in the league to making the playoffs the very next year. At 40-40, they have a shot to actually finish above .500. The last time they made the playoffs (in 2013) it was also as a sub .500 team, losing to the Miami Heat in the first round.
Michael Carter-Williams scored 12 points and will now be able to make his playoff debut a lot sooner than anyone, including him, thought. He seemed to be the one piece the Philadelphia 76ers were happy with until the trade deadline, getting shipped off from the worst example (or best, depending on your view of tanking) of losing on purpose in the NBA. He hasn’t actually made the Bucks better, but things are certainly much better for him, on a team that’s actually trying to win games instead of throw them via orders from above.
While there is a very small chance the Bucks won’t finish sixth and fall to seventh, they’re probably already getting prepared for either the Chicago Bulls or the Toronto Raptors, both teams trying to finish third and avoid a first round series with the Washington Wizards