A week before the season ended the Bucks beat the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly to clinch the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, as well as the best record in the NBA and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
This is awful news for the rest of the conference because the Bucks have been the best home team in the East, with a 33-8 record at home that’s second only to the Denver Nuggets.
When Giannis plays, the Bucks are even better, 30-5 overall. Against the East, that mark is even better at 20-2, with the only two losses coming against the Raptors and the 76ers.
Make no mistake, the Bucks have been the most dominant team in the league, but their dominance is even more significant when they play inside the friendly confines of Fiserv Forum with their superstar forward, and even more so against Eastern competition.
As I said, this is terrible news for everyone else.
The Bucks’ dominance is amplified even more by the fact that a majority of the teams the Bucks could play in the playoffs are not good on the road. Only the Raptors (26-15) and Celtics (21-20) had a winning record among Eastern playoff teams during the regular season.
The Pistons, the Bucks’ first-round matchup, were positively abysmal away from home, going just 15-26 on the season. If the Bucks were to advance past Detroit, they’d face the Celtics, who I mentioned were barely above .500 on the road, or the Pacers who were just 19-22.
The Raptors are the only other playoff team with a strong road record, but the Bucks wouldn’t see them until the Conference Finals. Plus, there’s no guarantee the Raptors would make the Conference Finals, and perhaps the Bucks could end up facing the 76ers who were just 20-21 on the road.
If you’re curious about the other playoff teams, the Nets were 19-22 and the Magic were 17-24 on the road.
So the Bucks go into the playoffs with the strongest home record, and won’t play a team that was even above average on the road until at least the Conference Finals.
But even the best home teams still lose games at home, especially in the playoffs. The Bucks will almost definitely have to win at least one road game if they are to make the Finals.
Luckily for the Bucks, they’re also the best road team in the league. With a 27-14 record away from home, the Bucks tied the Golden State Warriors for best regular season road record.
Home-court advantage isn’t just the advantage of being able to advance by winning just at home, it’s also about being able to play critical games at home.
The playoffs are going to be tough, the Bucks are almost definitely going to lose at least one home game, maybe even two. In a playoff series, Game 5 is always huge as the series is either tied at 2-2 or 3-1 with just three games left. You want to play that key swing game at home in front of your crowd.
The Bucks are guaranteed to play every Game 5 in the friendly confines of the Fiserv Forum. And, of course, there’s always Game 7, which the Bucks are also guaranteed to always have the home-court advantage in no matter who they play.
The Bucks are great at home, but they’re not invincible. They’ll probably lose at home during their playoff run, but their ability to win on the road will mean they don’t have to panic.
The Bucks ability to be dominant at home and reliably win at home should at least set them up to win series early in the early rounds and make them an incredibly tough team to beat four times in seven games.
It’s the first time in nearly two decades the Bucks will have home-court advantage, it’s the first playoff games in the shiny new Fiserv Forum, and Milwaukee fans will be rowdy.
Good luck winning in that environment.