Green and growing Bucks keep winning

Tyler Job, Staff Writer

Former Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings once said in 2013 that an eighth-seeded Bucks squad would defeat a top-seeded Miami Heat team – with LeBron James – in the first round of the NBA playoffs in six games.

At the time, that infamous claim sounded purely ridiculous, given the fact that Miami was better than Milwaukee in every facet of the game.

Four years later, however, that once-ridiculous playoffs prediction might not seem so moot.

About a month ago, a lot of angry Bucks fans – including me – did not even want to see the team on the television screen because of the poor play the squad was showcasing consistently.

Until March kicked in.

The Bucks have become the NBA’s version of March Madness and the facts say for itself.

Milwaukee is 11-4 so far in March and just recently went 4-2 on its west coast trip. Before the road trip, the Bucks had not won four away games in one trip since 1989.

Throughout March, Milwaukee has also beaten some high-quality teams in the Los Angeles Clippers [twice] and fellow Eastern Conference playoffs foes Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks.

A large part of the reason why the Bucks are playing so well is because of the contribution of star guard/forward Khris Middleton, who was out the first four months of the season after rupturing his left hamstring in preseason workouts.

Since returning from his hamstring injury against Miami Feb. 8 – ironically the same night star forward Jabari Parker suffered his second left ACL injury – Khris has been playing more like Khash. The 25-year-old is averaging about 15 points per game, and is shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 45.3 percent on three-pointers. He even scored a season-high 30 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on the team’s recent road trip.

And perhaps the most impressive and important fact about Middleton’s contributions is that the Bucks are 12-3 with him in the starting lineup. Yeah, you read that right.

The Bucks are suddenly one of the scariest teams in the NBA – don’t forget Milwaukee is doing it without Parker or fellow forward Michael Beasley – and are now hot at the perfect time.

There are roughly two weeks left of regular season play before the playoffs start rolling, and the Bucks certainly seem to be heading that direction.

The team is currently in a race for at least an eight spot with the Heat, Pacers, Hawks, and central division foes Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls. Milwaukee owns the tiebreaker over the Bulls and Pacers, so if all three teams finished the season with identical records, the Bucks would have the advantage.

If Milwaukee can at least avoid being an eight seed (currently sixth seed) and facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, the Bucks would have a better chance advancing past the first round of the playoffs, something the team has not done since 2001.

It would certainly be very refreshing if Milwaukee can reach the playoffs and then win at least a series for the first time in a long time because, well, yeah, it hasn’t gone so great for a while.

In January and February, the Bucks had gone through a serious slump and most fans thought another chance at the playoffs was up in smoke. That has now flip-flopped in the flip-floppiest way imaginable.

With the way the Bucks have been playing this month, there is no reason to not be optimistic of the potential Milwaukee can display if the team reaches the playoffs.

Bucks in six? Perhaps. Fear the Deer? I think so.