2015 Bucks an Inspiration for 2020 Bucks?


Well, here we are.

The Milwaukee Bucks may have been widely depicted as the underdog in this conference semifinal, but very few could have predicted a commanding 3-0 lead for the Miami Heat.

In a word, it’s been agonizing to watch. Even when things were going well for the Bucks in each of the three games, there always seemed to be those underlying, ever-lurking issues that refused to dissipate.

Coach Bud’s rotations. Careless turnovers leading to uncontested Miami buckets. Poor shot selection. Too much isolation. Slow rotational defense. The list goes on.

All of these concerns have contributed in some way, shape or form to Milwaukee’s unthinkable 0-3 deficit.

While this has been a historic season, eight words come to mind pertaining directly to the Bucks’ potential fate.

It don’t mean a thing without the ring.

Now we know that this season is unlike any other in terms of tradition, and you can make the argument that certain players and/or teams have either benefited or hindered from the extensive time off coupled with a neutral playoff location. These claims, though valid, will always be hypothetical, and that notion has not changed how other NBA teams have continued to operate following their exit from the Orlando Bubble.

Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), Nate McMillan (Indiana) and Brett Brown (Philadelphia) have all been relieved of their coaching duties following their respective departures. League GM’s are treating this as a routine end-of-season evaluation, regardless of any potential asterisks this season’s resumption has indirectly imposed.

The same likely goes for Mike Budenholzer– last year’s Coach of the Year victor and this year’s finalist. Back-to-back No. 1 seeds and a 116-39 record in two seasons is a difficult feat for anyone to achieve.

“Credibility lasts about two cycles of bad material, and then you’ll probably never get it back. If you let people down, that’s really hard to come back from– harder than climbing from nothing to something, even.” — Louis C.K.

Coaching credibility is a sensitive item in any pro sport. They’re vilified much more often than they are appreciated. Bud is enduring his first taste of slander from the erratic Bucks Twitter, the same slander dealt to Jason Kidd– just at an astronomically higher magnitude over a longer period of time.

Kidd had his flaws– but his progress with the Bucks coincides nicely with Louis C.K’s quote referenced above. Kidd’s lack of adaptation (credibility) heavily outweighed any progress made (climbing from nothing to something). As the Bucks look for inspiration in their self-dug abyss, they don’t have to look too far in the past.

2015 Bucks an Inspiration for 2020 Bucks?

It’s 2015. The sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks trail the third-seeded rival — and then-MIP Jimmy Butler — Chicago Bulls 0-3 in the opening round of the playoffs. Their young but veteran nine-man rotation looks like this:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Khris Middleton
  • Michael Carter-Williams
  • Ersan Ilyasova
  • Zaza Pachulia
  • John Henson
  • OJ Mayo
  • Jared Dudley
  • Jerryd Bayless

Giannis and Khris were little fawns in 2015, but the sentiment of an 0-3 hole remains the same– you have not much left to lose and everything to gain.

Keep in mind, the Bucks went from winning a mere 15 games the season prior to being seven games above .500 heading into the 2015 all-star break. We’re going to ignore the hypothetical of “what if the Bucks never traded Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams” simply because it’s a delicate topic for what could have been.

This nine-man rotation was what Kidd virtually used all series long. It was quite different from this year’s unpredictable one that often sees an all-bench unit out there or a combination of Giannis/Khris riding the pine during the most pivotal parts of the series.


Back to the 2015 playoffs. The Bucks dropped a devastating, double-overtime home loss in Game 3.

Then and now, the Bucks had their chances to emerge victorious in each Game 3– falling just short both times. Most wrote the Bucks off from there (including “fans”), as the majority of the BMO Harris Bradley Center oozed Bulls red in Game 4.

I sat in the center of the 400’s, and I can tell you that at least 3/4 of my section was comprised of Bulls fans. It was weird being among the few to cheer for your team at home.

Little did I know, Game 4 would transpire to be a Bucks Classic.

Yep, that’s high-school senior Eric losing his sh*t following that Jerryd Bayless buzzer-beating layup. I still get chills re-watching that Every. Single. Time.

The general aura leaving the arena? Utter disgust from Bulls fans, but otherwise a sliver of hope from the small Bucks crowd. I was near someone who started a “Bucks in Seven” chant.

They wouldn’t win the series, but they forced a Game 6 to give the now-majority Bucks crowd an idea of their potential. The 54-point loss was difficult to stomach following their promising play in back-to-back wins. Nonetheless, they made it a series, and you can expect 2020 Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton to give it their best shot– just like they did five years ago.

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About Eric Peterson

The Lead's Chief of Content

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