Bucks’ Recurrent Miami Struggles Portend Uncertain Future


“Well, the Heat are looking pretty good this season. But first, they’re going to have to get past the Bucks.” This proclamation from Bucks radio announcer Ted Davis would have sounded reasonable this season. The comment was tongue-in-cheek in 2013, however, when the 38-44 Bucks prepared for 66-16 Miami. At first, the two moments seem to have little in common. A closer examination reveals the two teams’ similar frustrations and the many unknowns they faced. After 2013, drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo improved fortunes. In 2020, no one knows whether the future is appetizing or a stomachache of pain.


By 2013, Milwaukee hadn’t made the playoffs since 2010 and wasn’t victorious in a series since 2001. Today, having to beat Toronto to clinch an important goal would induce nervousness. However, the 2013 Raptors were a terrible 29-47. The Deer easily pummeled the extinct reptiles 100-83 on the same day the lowly 76ers lost, ensuring a return to the postseason. Unfortunately, the Bucks lost any momentum with five straight losses before beating Oklahoma City’s bench.

The 2020 Bucks had much more talent, but concerns persisted. Going into the bubble and even the playoffs, Bucks fans were generally confident of a Finals berth or at least a Conference Finals loss to Toronto. However, seeding and Magic inconsistencies led most to favor Miami. The Heat bedeviled Milwaukee throughout the season, and the Bucks needed a faster start after two game one losses in three tries.

Early Struggles

LeBron James earned a nearly unanimous MVP in 2013, and he began incredible five-straight years of first-round sweeps. Erik Spoelstra masterfully manages egos and built a culture of determined excellence, and Miami refused to blink while winning both games at home. (TNT’s commentary was equally cringe-worthy in 2013, regrettably).

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Thankfully, the 2020 Deer didn’t have to worry about the troublesome AA Arena. Game one, however, was much more disappointing. The Bucks indeed started quickly but faltered down the stretch as Jimmy Butler dominated. The Heat led throughout game two before a questionable late foul by Giannis sent Butler to the line with zero seconds left. (Giannis should take note: getting air under a free throw allows a possibility of a roll-in while tossing it too softly gives no chance.)

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In 2013, The Bucks could at least look forward to returning to the Bradley Center. The 2020 Deer could only regroup but had enough talent to at least split the next two.

Game 3 Heartbreak

Milwaukee led during much of game three, but Miami inevitably raced ahead. (Sadly, TNT’s moronic commentary was equally as repetitive as depressing playoff losses pre-Giannis.)

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2020’s game three provided more promise. The Bucks led by 12 after three quarters and poised to jump back into the series at 1-2. The Conference Finals allow for few flukes, however. Only the most focused and dedicated teams can win eight games and become one of the last four out of 30 talented franchises. Miami seized control with the most one-sided fourth quarter in NBA history, heartbreakingly taking a 3-0 lead. Angst ruled Bucks nation and radio, and frustration cast a somber pall on a newly-enthused basketball city.

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The 2013 Bucks had no chance to come back. A determined Giannis proclaimed the 2020 Bucks wouldn’t quit. Could the modern Deer overcome 139 0-3 failures?


In 2013, Miami finished a one-sided sweep as the Bucks tragically went into the draft outside the lottery. (Although their pick, a Greek prospect, was decent enough.) The now-MVP played perhaps the best basketball of his career seven years later before severely twisting his ankle. As Mark Jackson smartly observed, his teammates weren’t playing strictly for him, but instead for personal drive and ambition.

Down one with seconds left and no timeouts, the Bucks needed to score to avoid the sweep. Donte DiVincenzo saved the day with an intelligent drive and clutch free throw.

Later, in Jackson’s immortal words, “Mama! There goes that man.” Khris Middleton iced the game with a three.


The Bucks forced game five, but with the Freak out, faced a daunting task. They led by 13 early on but struggled mightily offensively. Khris missed a crucial short shot with 2:36 left, and the Heat started to escape pressure. A crucial no-call on an inbounds push-off ended any Milwaukee chance. The season shockingly ended, leading to an uncertain future.


The 2013 Bucks seemed to have little hope. Herb Kohl’s eight-or-bust strategy didn’t work, and the Bradley Center wasn’t NBA-quality. Thankfully, a new ownership group reinvigorated the franchise. Giannis and Jason Kidd set the floor for future success, and Milwaukeeans quickly forgot the Heat heartbreak. The 2020 Bucks don’t know about Giannis’s future. Per Shams Charania, Mike Budenholzer’s job is currently secure. However, Milwaukee must play smarter from outside and closeout more carefully defensively. Giannis, thankfully, is authentically loyal to Milwaukee. Still, with only one year left on his contract, his town rightly takes a deep inhale leading into an unknown 2021.

Giannis feels down, but the soon-to-be two time MVP consistently dedicates towards improving his shortcomings. His teammates respect their leader and proudly back their home city, whatever its flaws. The Cream City mourns as the Heat continues to a round we thought securely in our reach. Giannis has missed his first two tip-ins, coming up short of a championship. If he gathers another board? No NBA team will deter his Bucks from a glorious trophy 50 years overdue.

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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