The Milwaukee Bucks have been considered favorites to win the 2022-2023 NBA Championship since virtually the first game. The Bucks have experienced success in recent memory, as they won the title in the 2020-2021 season, but after their early departure from the Playoffs, is it time for the franchise to begin changing directions? Below I’ll discuss their first-round series loss, as well as provide my thoughts on the direction Miluakee need to take their team.
Strong Regular Season
The 2-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetounkoumpo finished 3rd in MVP voting this year, and led the Bucks to the best record in the NBA behind his 31. points and 11.8 rebounds per game average. They seemed to cruise through the regular season as 2023 All-Star Jrue Holiday and 2nd place finisher in the Defensive Player of the Year race, Brook Lopez, provided ample support for Giannis.
The Bucks finished with a 58-24 record and claimed the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference. They entered the Playoffs as the odds on favorite to win the Finals and were huge favorites over the 8-seed Miami Heat heading into the first round. Unfortunately, due to a number of challenging circumstances, the Bucks were unable to continue their success in the postseason.
The Bucks opened off their series with a disappointing loss at home, but what was even more devastating was the injury suffered by Antetokounmpo. The Greek superstar’s back injury forced him to miss both games 2 and 3, where he squad was fortunate to split the games.
Giannis returned to the court in Miami for game 4 with his team down 2-1 in the series, but one thing the Bucks were accounting for was Playoff Jimmy Butler. Butler exploded in game 4, for 56 points, and led his team to victory, putting elimination pressure on the Bucks. One thing that’s notable from that game is that Giannis did not look fully healthy and wasn’t able to have as much control on the game that he usually does.
The Bucks returned to Milwaukee with their backs against the wall as they prepared for a must-win game 5. The Bucks had a terrific start to game 5, as they led 102-86 at the end of the 3rd quarter. But they completely fell apart in the 4th quarter and allowed the Heat to come back and force an overtime period. The Bucks battled as hard as they could, but they were no match for Butler’s heroic 42-point effort and the electrifying performance of the Heat’s supporting cast.
What does the Future Hold?
The Milwaukee Bucks and their fans are definitely disappointed following their brief postseason appearance this season, and although it was definitely a step in the wrong direction, I don’t think that it should cause any alarm or worry. Their early exit from the Playoffs this season was the worst-case scenario after the dominant regular season they’ve enjoyed, but it’s not the end of the world.
The Bucks will return their core players next season, including Giannis, who is locked up until 2026. Their squad has shown their strong chemistry and ability to succeed. One disappointing season shouldn’t discourage Miluakee or their fans from the direction their franchise is going.
Their first-round loss highlights the few struggles that this franchise has experienced in the past few years, but I think that it’s taught their team an important lesson and provided them valuable experience as they go forward. Despite their finish to the 2022-2023 NBA Season, the Miluakke Bucks will still be one of my early favorites to win it all next year.