54 points. That was the historically large deficit that sent the Milwaukee Bucks out of the NBA Playoffs, courtesy of the advancing Chicago Bulls.
120-66 is not a pretty figure, but the Bucks still have a lot to look forward to. Multiple young players broke out for them in a surprisingly competitive first-round bout with the Bulls. A series that once looked like a sweep became a six-game affair that had the Windy City sweating as head coach Jason Kidd’s defensive schemes flummoxed the Bulls in Games 4 and 5. The lengthy, energetic poise they bring to every position makes for a forest of limbs that will challenge NBA offenses for years.
John Henson was surprisingly effective stepping up to Pau Gasol in the post, as was Giannis Antetokounmpo. Sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams played an inspired Game 5, racking up 22 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocks as he led his team to a stunning 94-88 victory in Chicago. Shooting guard Khris Middleton continued to prove himself as one of the best in the game at his position, making life difficult for Bulls shooters and draining clutch three-pointers with the calm of an assassin.
And Milwaukee did all of this without the man who could very well be the centerpiece of their future: Jabari Parker. 2014’s No. 2 overall pick tore his ACL midseason, and has been on the mend since. Once he returns to the roster with his singular scoring knack, it will open up the floor for the Bucks’ offense in untold ways.
With Kidd and a promising roster in tow — and new uniforms and insignia on the way this fall — Milwaukee’s looking like the scene of an NBA renaissance. Chicago might have a big-brother hold on them for now, but soon the Bucks could be their bitter rivals.
— John Wilmes