Milwaukee Bucks: The 2017 playoff game that could have long-term significance

Milwaukee, WI - APRIL 20: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee, WI - APRIL 20: Giannis Antetokounmpo /

The Milwaukee Bucks put in a memorable performance in Game 3 of their 2017 series with the Toronto Raptors, and it may stand out even more in time.

Although the 2017 NBA playoffs ultimately ended in a disappointing first round exit for the Milwaukee Bucks, they also included the kind of spirited, exhilarating performances that offer the promise of far greater things to come.

The Bucks and their fans have grown used to the label of being a promise-filled, up-and-comer over the last couple of years, but if they manage to move past that point into a bona fide force at some point, there should certainly be cause to cast the minds back to their series with the Toronto Raptors in 2017.

Sure, Milwaukee ultimately fell short, but they earned an upstart reputation by challenging the tried and tested Raptors in a way that they may not have anticipated so soon from this Bucks team.

More from Bucks History

While the sheer thrill of opening up with a steely win on the road in the series opener will live long in the memory of all of those with more than a passing interest in the Bucks, it was the performance they delivered when they returned home for Game 3 that could ultimately have longer lasting implications.

Having just fallen short of taking a 2-0 lead home, the Bucks arrived back in Wisconsin in need of making counter-adjustments of their own.

Buoyed by the quality of their team’s play in the first two games in Canada, they’d also have a raucous base of Milwaukee support behind them as they looked to regain control of the series. Regular season crowds in Milwaukee can often be found wanting, but generally for the playoffs the people of Cream City can be relied upon to come out and deliver.

Still, when the teams took to the court for Game 3 on April 20, the atmosphere was unique.

After the game, Toronto’s coach Dwane Casey pointed to how the atmosphere caught his team off-guard, disrupted their rhythm early on, and rendered his team’s vastly superior experience irrelevant.

"“On the road. That’s where it’s got to show. Don’t get rattled. Keep your composure. You play to your identity. Don’t do things you don’t normally do. Every experienced team I’ve been around, on the road is kind of where it shows up.”"

The atmosphere was undoubtedly a major factor, but on that night the Raptors also got blown away by a Bucks team that played like a force of nature. That was best exemplified by a particularly honest post-game interview given by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.

"“We got our ass busted. I still think we can win the series. It ain’t over. It just sucks right now.”"

The ensuing games proved the second half of Lowry’s assessment to be entirely right, but the first half was a brief taste of what the Raptors and the rest of the league’s best teams could have to face against the Bucks, if everything clicks over the coming seasons.

Milwaukee’s length, energy and mobility stifled the Raptors’ offense. None of Toronto’s players managed to score more than 13 points, while collectively they shot just 33.8 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three-point range.

On the opposite side, the Bucks’ offense clicked in a way that it had only previously done on a couple of occasions during the regular season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was dominant in all facets of the game, finishing with 19 points on 7-10 from the field, and 2-2 from deep, plus eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

Having missed most of the season, Khris Middleton also showed up in a major way with a team-high 20 points and seven assists to put the Bucks over the edge.

The supporting cast clicked into place too with Greg Monroe, Michael Beasley, Matthew Dellavedova, and rookies Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon all weighing in with their share of positive play.

As a result, a final score of 104-77 and the 27-point winning margin didn’t flatter the Bucks in the slightest. Milwaukee came blazing out of the traps to hold the Raptors to just 12 points in the first quarter while putting up 32 of their own, and they never looked back from there.

In an article about the game for SB Nation, Tim Cato wrote:

"“The Bucks have made a clear statement that they should be feared. Even if they somehow seize up and fall apart in a series loss, something nobody is predicting at this point, consider how damn young they are.”"

That loss that nobody was predicting at that point came to pass, but the primary takeaway remained the same.

As the Bucks have slowly developed and gathered momentum over the years since Giannis Antetokounmpo was drafted, much was spoken about how, like all young teams, they could benefit from getting real playoff experience.

This was that moment, and one of just multiple instances when that sentiment could be applied to this particular series.

In the future, those around the Bucks will be able to point their team back to the way they were able to open with a statement win in Game 1, and how they fought resiliently and almost completed a comeback for the ages in the series closing Game 6. But what the rest of the NBA will fear most is the Bucks realizing they’re capable of bludgeoning teams in front of a white-hot home support like they did in Game 3.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: Snapping the Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time win streak

If Milwaukee can find a way to bring the spirit of this game with them in the years to come, there’ll be no end to the number of memorable playoff games in the coming years.