Making their playoff debut, Milwaukee Bucks Gaming were dealt a crushing loss late by Warriors Gaming that closed out their strong 2019-20 season.
After three years of waiting, Bucks Gaming‘s long-awaited playoff debut finally came Friday night after plenty of hard work to get to this point in their journey this season.
Standing as the sixth seed in the playoff bracket, the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2K League affiliate faced a stiff test in third-seeded Warriors Gaming, who ended the season 13-3 and have been led by MVP finalist CB13 all year long. The Bucks had previously met the Warriors earlier in the season, a series that ended with the Bucks getting swept and later serving as a catalyst to their late-season surge.
But the Bucks certainly found their groove over the latter half of the season and have been led by their own MVP and Rookie of the Year candidate in Regg and unsurprisingly, both players featured heavily through the night.
It was the Warriors who struck first in Game 1 with a 79-58 victory on their home floor, if you will.
It was far from a lopsided start as the Bucks managed to keep within striking distance throughout the first half and trailed the Warriors 38-35 going into halftime. But a 9-point third quarter did in the Bucks as their offense ran dry between a number of misses and a few untimely turnovers.
And Milwaukee’s aggressive, trapping defense didn’t lock into gear for the opening tilt with the Warriors shooting a blistering 71.7 percent from the field and only committing four turnovers.
With their backs up against the wall following their opening defeat, the Bucks bounced back with a 72-56 Game 2 victory that helped extend the best-of-3 series to its natural conclusion.
Milwaukee persevered and found their defensive resilience over the course of their “home” Game 2 victory and their ability to force 12 turnovers from the Warriors helped break them loose getting down the other end and converting transition opportunities.
Of course, Regg was front and center in the victory as he accounted for 53 of the Bucks’ 72 total points and did so on 23-for-35 shooting. Regg’s ability to attack relentlessly downhill and offer up his usual shotmaking made him unstoppable throughout the proceedings.
But equally crucial to the victory was Plondo as he absolutely stuffed the stat sheet with a double-double performance of 12 points and 11 rebounds, along with six assists, five blocks and three steals. The Bucks big man was central to being able to provide some secondary playmaking, whether it was serving up his usual outlet passes or working his two-man game with Regg off of pick-and-rolls.
The Bucks didn’t lose their rhythm once the do-or-die Game 3 got underway as they took an early lead not long after tip-off as they took advantage of early Warriors miscues. But the Bucks’ sturdy advantage quickly disappeared right before halftime as the Warriors started to break loose and trailed by just 1 going into halftime at 30-29.
The second half didn’t disappoint as possessions held greater weight with both the Bucks and the Warriors trading blows back and forth. Things certainly got harried down the stretch in the fourth quarter as some self-inflicted turnovers forced the Bucks to stage a last-ditch comeback in the final few minutes.
After trailing by as much as 7, the Bucks did indeed storm back with a vengeance as a clutch three from Arooks brought the Bucks within 2 of the Warriors with 44.1 seconds remaining. Forcing a turnover on the following possession, Squidris promptly got fouled and went 1-for-2 from the foul line to bring the Bucks within 1 with 24.5 seconds to go.
Electing not to foul with the Warriors having to respond, the Bucks’ premier lockdown specialist, Ty, forced his third and final steal of the game and streaked down the floor to throw down a two-handed jam and give the Bucks a 62-61 lead with 11.6 seconds to go. That edge would be short-lived with the Warriors, specifically CB13, going down the other end of the court and throwing down a double clutch, two-hand jam of his own to retake the lead at 63-62.
With 6.1 seconds to go, the Bucks held the final possession and their destiny was in their own hands. Unfortunately, the play they drew up in the timeout didn’t come to fruition as the Warriors closed out on both Regg and Arooks and the Bucks went without a last-second shot to complete their bubbling upset on the Warriors.
Without question, the Bucks were left with a very bitter pill to swallow, especially after coming so close to seeing their upset bid be realized at the final buzzer.
And with that, Bucks Gaming’s 2020 season has now come to a close. Despite the incredibly painful ending that will be burrowed in the minds of the crew, their long-awaited breakthrough to the playoffs and overall success this season has given them a strong foundation to build on in the years to come. Congratulations on a rewarding season, Bucks Gaming.