Bucks 2018-19 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions
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After going through some growing pains last season, the Milwaukee Bucks are hoping the 2018-19 season is the year they finally get over the hump.
Last season, Milwaukee had to make a midseason coaching change after underperforming at the start of the campaign. The team finished the year going 21-16 under interim coach Joe Prunty to earn a playoff berth. And while the Bucks gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle, they were ultimately dispatched in the first round in seven games.
Now, under the command of former NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer, the franchise is aiming to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Season Opener: Oct. 17 vs. Charlotte Hornets
Championship Odds: +10,000 (via Odds Shark)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
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Oct. 19 (home), Dec. 12 (away), Feb. 13 (away), March 7 (home)
If the Bucks are going to finally advance in the postseason, having home-court advantage in the first round would go a long way in helping the cause. That means playing well against the top competition in the Central Division is key.
Last season, Indiana surprised the basketball world by winning 48 games and making the playoffs after dealing All-Star Paul George during the offseason. Behind 2017-18 Most Improved Player Victor Oladipo, the Pacers took the eventual East champs (the Cleveland Cavaliers) to seven games in the first round before bowing out.
Now that LeBron James has moved on to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pacers appear to be the Bucks’ biggest threat in the Central.
Milwaukee finished four games back of Indiana a season ago, and it didn’t help that the Bucks didn’t fare well in their head-to-head meetings, either. They went just 1-3 against the Pacers, with their losses coming by an average of 7.8 points.
Indiana has added Doug McDermott, Tyreke Evans, Kyle O’Quinn and Aaron Holiday this offseason to beef up its roster around Oladipo. In other words, it should be even more formidable than it was last season.
Winning the Central doesn’t guarantee home-court advantage, but the Bucks can’t afford to finish too far back in the division and hope to get a top-four seed. Not with the Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers expected to pile up the wins while fighting for the Atlantic crown.
Philadelphia 76ers: Oct. 24 (home), March 17 (home), April 4 (away)
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Not only does Philadelphia serve as one of Milwaukee’s top competition for home-court advantage in the first round, but it also features a compelling individual matchup:
Giannis Antetokounmpo against Joel Embiid.
With James now in the West, Antetokounmpo and Embiid are viewed as two of the top players in the East, although Kawhi Leonard has joined the conversation following his trade to Toronto. When the Bucks and Sixers get together on the court, it will give the two big men a chance to try to settle the score.
Despite the two squads meeting four times on the court last season, injuries caused there to be only one game that featured both Antetokounmpo and Embiid. It was a wild a 118-100 Bucks victory that saw the Greek Freak go off for 35 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Meanwhile, Embiid posted 19 points and eight rebounds.
Unfortunately for basketball fans, that was the only time the two All-Stars faced off.
The pair did spend some time together during the All-Star break, which probably isn’t what Milwaukee fans want to hear.
“He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said, via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That was my reaction—I just laughed.”
The Greek Freak helped settle any nerves Bucks fans may have had by going on The Herd with Colin Cowherd this summer and making it clear he wants to win a championship in Milwaukee.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Even though Jabari Parker left via free agency this summer, the Bucks are still in a position to build on last year’s success. And it all starts with the coach.
Budenholzer made the playoffs in each of his first four seasons in Atlanta, taking a team led by Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver to 60 wins and the Eastern Conference finals in 2014-15. He also got his team to the second round the next season.
That’s unfamiliar territory in Milwaukee, so having a coach with that type of experience can’t be undervalued.
Antetokounmpo has steadily improved throughout his career, posting a career-high 26.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game last season. If the 6’11”, 235-pound forward continues to progress he could be a legitimate MVP candidate this season, which would bode well for the Bucks as a team.
Parker may be gone, but Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe and John Henson remain, while the team added Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo during the offseason. That should give Antetokounmpo enough help to make things interesting in the East.
via Bleacher Report – NBA https://ift.tt/2gMI6gF
August 10, 2018 at 01:33PM