Don't Slag the Stag
The origin of "Fear the deer" is disputed. But one thing is certain: "Don't slag the stag" is being coined right here, right now. Slap it on a poster, Milwaukee. It's all yours! The problem is that in this article, I actually will be slagging the stag a bit. Milwaukee's not surviving Round 1. The Bucks Stop Here, in other words. Go Buck Yourself. Dismantle the Antlers. Why is it so easy to come up with these? Hoof Springs Eternal. Okay, that one might not work. These Bucks Were Made for Milwaukin'. What the hell is happening and why am I suddenly terrible at this game.
Fun Bucks Fact #1: If the Bucks mascot were more talented at jazz piano, he would be named
It's trendy to note that the Bucks do more with less, a Scott Skiles trademark. It's trendy even though their best player and defensive anchor is a number-one draft choice, a pedigree that gets mentioned surprisingly little. Sidenote: How fun is it to use the word "pedigree" with respect to basketball players? It makes it sound like Andrew Bogut has a lustrous, healthy coat of fur. But yeah: Milwaukee does do more with less, and the primary reason is, they have less. Than other teams. I'm sure their fans would rather have them doing more with more. Milwaukee's depth is frankly weird to contemplate. I mean, who's the sixth man? Ersan Ilyasova? Luke Ridnour? My God, it's Jerry Stackhouse, isn't it?
The Celtics and Hawks will have the three and four seeds, not necessarily in that order; the Bucks will be in slot five or six. Milwaukee's season series with each stands at 1-1, with a game left to play against Atlanta and two left against Boston. Let's examine the matchups with each. Meanwhile, let's not run out into a highway, freeze, and stare vacantly at oncoming traffic.
Fun Bucks Fact #2: Bucks fans would be more likely to call themselves The American Hart Association if the word "hart," which means "male deer," was more commonly used. But it is not. So this idea sort of sucks.
Of the Eastern Conference's top four teams, the Celtics are probably the least respected. There have been a few too many nationally televised games where the Magic or the Cavaliers go on a fast-break-intensive 14-2 run against them or something and Marv Albert gets excited and says something about the Celts "showing their age," and then no one has the courage to say, "Marv, you are 68 years old." Here's the thing about Boston: they're the league's elite low-scoring, slow-paced, defense-oriented team, and while that's frequently not good enough to beat the teams at the top, they're very effective against teams who are built like themselves. Against the league's top ten defensive teams, they're 14-7. Against the league's nine worst offenses, they're 24-5. Against the nine slowest-paced teams, they're 16-11, which is a better record than it looks—of those nine teams, six are playoff-bound. Speaking of which: Sorry, Don Nelson. The dream is officially dead.
Digging a little deeper/nerdier, I compared Milwaukee's team shot location makeup with Boston's, and on offense, the most favorable matchup for the Bucks is from midrange, which unfortunately is where the Bucks tend to be at their least effective. Put differently, the best parts of Milwaukee's offensive game are the parts that Boston defends best. The matchup on defense is better—the Bucks are elite at protecting the paint, where the Celtics get a disproportionate amount of their offense—but again, the Celtics are built to withstand low-scoring sclerotic games from hell, so this is not as much of an advantage as it would seem.
Fun Bucks Fact #3: Milwaukee's vaunted Squad 6 cheering section is also known as the Herbivortex, a name I just came up with.
Meanwhile, the win profile of the Hawks is pretty boring—.500 against good teams, above .500 against average and bad teams, almost regardless of what we're defining as "good," "average," "bad," etc. The one exception is that they do well (13-7) against excellent rebounding teams. Rebounding is a major advantage for the Bucks—their field-goal percentage tends to be lower than their opponents', and they get to the line far less (partially a result of relying on threes).
On a simpler matchup level, I feel like when Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are on the floor together in the fourth quarter, the Bucks don't quite have an answer for that—if Skiles puts Mbah a Moute on Johnson, as he's done in the past, then the frontcourt game-within-the-game becomes Bogut and Ersan Ilyasova versus Smith and Horford, in which I feel like the Hawks would prevail. This is based less on statistics, and more on the fact that I feel like Ersan Ilyasova looks like an enormous Jonas Brother.
Tweens of Milwaukee: To hell with the playoffs. You've already won.
So will Milwaukee get out of the first round? I say no. Boston in 5, or Atlanta in 6. Go ahead. Tell me why I'm wrong.
image credit: wild.india