With the Milwaukee Bucks set to kick off their NBA playoffs against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, will their injuries impact their opening series?
The big day has finally arrived. After a grueling 82 game season, the Milwaukee Bucks are set to kick off what they hope will be a special playoff run against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.
A major question mark, however, lingers over the team as they embark on a potential run for the NBA title: will the injuries they’ve endured during the season affect them in the playoffs?
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More specifically, will the injuries the Milwaukee Bucks have coming into the playoffs have an effect on their opening series?
Milwaukee enters the opening round of the playoffs with several players on the injured list.
Malcolm Brogdon, one of their key starters for much of the season, is set to miss the opening series as he continues to recover from a plantar fascia tear in his right foot that occurred in the middle of March. He’s not expected to be back until the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Several other rotation guys also have an uncertain status: Tony Snell is recovering from an ankle injury, and is not expected to be available for either games 1 or 2. Donte DiVincenzo is out for the entire playoffs. Pau Gasol, who the Bucks acquired late in the season, is also out. It remains unclear if or when he will be available.
On the surface, given those number of injuries, it would seem the Milwaukee Bucks could be in a good deal of trouble in their opening series. After all, a playoff series is a playoff series, and the Detroit Pistons have quite a few talented players who could give the Bucks problems.
A closer look, however, reveals that the Bucks should be more than capable of dispensing of the Pistons with relative ease, even if they’re missing several guys for most of the series.
The first thing in the Bucks’ favor is the strength of their roster. Despite having several guys out, including at least two important players, the Milwaukee Bucks still have a clearly superior roster in terms of talent and depth to Detroit.
The Bucks have the clear best player in the series in Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s best player and potential MVP. Eric Bledsoe should have no issues dealing with his Pistons counterpart Reggie Jackson given his superior talent and play.
No one in the Detroit side comes close to the talent that Khris Middleton possesses at his position. Detroit will have issues all series trying to find someone who can respectably guard him.
The Milwaukee reserves are also well above that which Detroit can offer. George Hill has done an outstanding job in the final weeks of the season as the second guard behind Bledsoe. He should have a clear edge over Jose Calderon or Ish Smith during this series.
Sterling Brown and Pat Connaughton have done a fantastic job making up most of the production that Malcolm Brogdon provided. Both should have an advantage on any of the Pistons shooting guards or small forwards.
Even the Bucks front court options, D.J. Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova, should be able to do a serviceable job. Detroit lacks front court depth outside of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, with former Bucks Zaza Pachulia and Thon Maker being their only real rotation options.
Talent wise, Milwaukee is a far superior team. The gulf between these sides is about as big as the ones Bucks fans were accustomed to seeing when Milwaukee barely snuck in to the playoffs and were matched up with the likes of the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh led Miami Heat.
Milwaukee has a far superior starting five. Their bench is also miles ahead of Detroit. That hasn’t changed, even with the injuries the Bucks have had over the past two months.
A second thing that lends heavily in the favor the Bucks is their regular season dominance over Detroit. Milwaukee didn’t just sweep Detroit. They rolled them in three of the four games they played.
Their match-ups may have occurred before Detroit went on a bit of run after the All-Star break, but Milwaukee looked a far superior side when they matched up four times during the regular season. Though Milwaukee and Detroit look a bit different roster wise now, the core of these teams has essentially remained the same. There’s no reason to think Detroit is any better suited to beat this Bucks team now than they were in December and January.
A third major advantage the Bucks have is the run of form the teams are on. The Milwaukee Bucks weathered several injuries, and rested several key players over the final two months of the season. Despite that, they went 13-8 in March and April, and they clinched home court with several games to spare.
Detroit, by contrast, has been on the skids. After getting to a season best record of 34-31 on March 10, and getting as high as the sixth spot in the East, Detroit would go 7-10 over their final 17 games. During that skid, they got blown out by several playoff teams, including losses of 13 or more against Oklahoma City, Indiana, Brooklyn, and Miami (who missed the playoffs entirely), all of whom are worse than the Milwaukee Bucks.
Thus, Milwaukee comes into this series not only well rested, but they come into it in far better form than Detroit. That can matter in a playoff series.
One final thing that is in the Bucks favor, particularly in regard to injuries, is who’s injured for Detroit. The Pistons may have more guys healthy than Milwaukee, but their best player (and potential all-NBA forward) Blake Griffin is not. Pistons head coach Dwane Casey indicated that Griffin is battling a knee injury. His status is uncertain for Game 1.
Griffin is the only player on the Detroit Pistons who’s capable of giving the Bucks major problems. Even in their losses, Griffin had several incredible performances against Milwaukee.
If he is available, it’s clear he won’t be at 100 percent during this series. That’s a major blow for a Detroit team that was already facing a major uphill battle against the NBA’s best regular season side.
Given all of this: their superior talent both in their starting five and on their bench, their dominance in their previous match-ups, the form of the teams, and Detroit’s star player being injured, the Milwaukee Bucks should destroy the Detroit Pistons in their first round match-up. Anything less than a sweep or a five game series win would be a major let down and a potential warning sign for the Bucks.
Here’s to hoping Milwaukee is up to the task in front of them.