MILWAUKEE — The street to the 2023 NBA championship goes by way of Milwaukee. With a snug 105-92 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night time, the Milwaukee Bucks improved to 58-22 on the season, clinched the most effective file within the league, and No. 1 general seed within the playoffs.
“It’s only a credit score to the gamers,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer mentioned. “The gamers have actually stepped up; they’ve embraced the problem. Night in and night time out on this league is tough. There’s nice opposition and we wish to be our greatest. To have the most effective file is one thing that issues and is vital.”
Though the Bucks began the season 9-0, a mid-season hunch and an array of accidents left them as little as fourth place within the Eastern Conference. By late January, they had been 5.5 video games behind the Boston Celtics for the highest spot. Then they flipped a change. From Jan. 23 to March 1, they gained 16 video games in a row to tie the third-longest successful streak in franchise historical past, and since that date, they’re 29-5.
They’ve largely been wholesome throughout this current sizzling stretch, nevertheless it was becoming in a manner that they clinched the most effective file in a recreation that they performed with out Giannis Antetokounmpo and (for probably the most half) Khris Middleton. Few high groups have had as many absences because the Bucks this season. No one on the staff has performed in each recreation, whereas Middleton (47 video games), Antetokounmpo (17), and Holiday (13) have all missed intensive time. That large three has solely been collectively for twenty-four video games.
“We acquired lots of guys that may play, lots of guys that can step as much as the event,” Wesley Matthews mentioned. “It’s an 82-game season. It’s a grind. Unfortunately, this recreation has accidents. Guys have been out and in of the lineup — I do not know what number of rotations, or what number of beginning lineups we have had over the course of this season.
“For us to have 58 wins and clinch the No. 1 general is a testomony to everybody’s character in that locker room and the willpower to be the final staff standing. What we did tonight, up to now this season, has been an awesome feat. There’s pleasure. It’s nothing to dismiss. Only one staff might be the No. 1 general seed, and we had been in a position to try this. But we nonetheless have our sights set larger and it is one recreation at a time nonetheless.”
The larger purpose forward of the Bucks is one other championship. They absolutely imagine they might have repeated if Middleton did not go down with a knee harm within the first spherical, however one other issue of their second-round exit was coasting to the No. 3 seed. As a end result, they needed to go to Boston for Game 7 within the second spherical and had been blown out by 28 factors. Now, they will have home-court benefit all through the playoffs.
“Obviously, having Game 7s at dwelling are gonna be large and issues like that if it goes seven video games,” Bobby Portis mentioned. “It’s so much totally different staying in resort rooms than being at dwelling, so clearly, that is an awesome factor to have.”
The Bucks have earned the fitting to take a breath and regroup forward of the playoffs, however come April 15, they will must be proper again to the extent they’ve performed at for two-plus months. The Celtics, Sixers, Nuggets, and even the Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Warriors will all imagine they’ve what it takes to get their palms on the Larry O’Brien trophy too.
Rightfully so, however to take action, they will have to come back by way of Milwaukee.
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