With tomorrow’s game in Cleveland, the sun is finally setting on the NBA regular season. The Milwaukee Bucks are heading to the playoffs once again with a credible claim to return to the NBA Finals. The fact that they are seen as contenders with very little argument is still uncharted territory for Bucks fans, but now we are about to return to some very crowded ground.
Games question again.
Seriously, the regular season isn’t meaningless. Not entirely. Games decide who gets into the playoffs, in what order, and legitimate data can be extracted to indicate what to look for in a specific series game. But the regular season is not something to be won; Bucks fans found out the hard way. The regular season is something to survive, to endure, to simply pass on the way to the playoffs…or the offseason.
Although the regular season pales in comparison to the playoffs, that doesn’t stop us from worrying about it. As defending NBA champions, the Bucks don’t necessarily have as much to prove as their 29 counterparts, and that lack of pressure has resulted in a downright enjoyable experience among the fan base this year. There’s still plenty to get upset about, such as uneven media coverage, ill-informed stories, debates over awards (both who won them and who deserves them, it’s not the same thing!), and we unquestionably got upset about everything. But it didn’t really mattered.
That’s about to change.
With the playoffs comes the pressure that players and coaches have to perform under, and the fans just have to exist within. It’s obviously more difficult for them than for us… but we’re not them, are we? We can’t control the outcome, we just watch, cheer and argue among ourselves, willingly taking the pressure to participate in this madness. And that’s madness; you knew that “fan” is short for “fanatic”, right?
And “madness” is the word that comes to mind when I see the various threads of conversation that have permeated certain sects of the Bucks fandom, all focused on playoff standings. For weeks, opinions have been popping up that involve looking at the scoreboard and hoping for a particular outcome between two teams that aren’t the Milwaukee Bucks. And really, I understand. I just finished talking about the relative worthlessness of the regular season and how getting to the Finals is the real, real goal. Why take a more difficult path when an easier path leads you to the same destination?
Giannis would disagree. I don’t agree either. I want the hardest path. I want, as the children say, all the smoke. Give me Brooklyn in the first round. Give me Boston. Give me Toronto. Give me Philadelphia. Give me Miami. Give me Phoenix, or Golden State, or whoever comes out West. Give me someone; give me everyone!
The Milwaukee Bucks are not a team that needs to navigate the playoffs; the Milwaukee Bucks are the team all the others needs to navigate. The Bucks don’t need to play with their top seed; other teams must avoid them. They are not “in danger”, they are the danger.
And if they fall (as Walter White finally did in breaking Bad), so be it. They come down swinging, on their terms, walking straight into the fight rather than trying to find a way around it.
Then yes, there is still a ton to settle in terms of who is playing who, and where, and when. Maybe it matters, hindsight will tell if it does. But right now the only thing I want is victory, complete and utter, and I don’t care who gets in the way.