An examination of the NBA standings earlier this week revealed a shocking truth. There, occupying the eighth slot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 19-21, sat the Milwaukee Bucks. If the regular season ended Tuesday, the Bucks would qualify for the playoffs and square off against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
That may be of little consequence to hoops fans in this part of the state, who might slot the Bucks well behind Madison Memorial's boys team and just slightly ahead of their neighbor's Monday night MSCR squad in a ranking of teams about which they care. That's thanks to Milwaukee's status as an also-ran in pro basketball so far this century. The Bucks' last winning campaign was in 2002-03, and they failed to win even 30 of their 82 games the last two seasons.
Scott Skiles, hired as the Bucks' head coach in April, took a look at a roster lacking in prolific scorers and realized his best chance to win would come from lowering the 103.9 points a game the Bucks were giving up. Nearly halfway through this season, his team is drastically better on defense, giving up just 96.7 points per game, two points below the league average. For the first time since 2003-04, the Bucks are scoring more points on offense than they're giving up.
This week, Milwaukee heads west to play at Sacramento, Los Angeles (Clippers) and Portland before returning home to face Dallas. A playoff team should finish that stretch no worse than 2-2. We'll see.