You can only play the teams on your schedule.
And, for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, that has been a collection of the NBA’s “Who’s Who’’ of worst teams in the last month.
Both the Bucks and Lakers have compiled the best records in the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively, by beating up on teams that have little or no chance of making the playoffs.
Let’s start with the Bucks.
They are currently riding the wave of a 12-game winning streak. On the surface, that would be a hell of an accomplishment. But the Bucks have benefitted greatly from a ridiculously feeble schedule.
During their 12-game winning streak, the Bucks played 10 teams with LOSING records. In their last four games, they played the Eastern Conference’s four worst teams: New York (4-17 record), Charlotte (8-14), Cleveland (5-15) and Atlanta (5-16). What’s more, during their current winning streak, the Bucks played Chicago (7-14) on two occasions.
The only good Eastern Conference team, the only one that figures to make the playoffs, the Bucks played was Indiana. Yet, that game was a joke. The Pacers not only played without their best player –ex-Buck Malcolm Brogdon (19.4 points and 8 assists) – but without Brogdon’s starting backcourt partner Jeremy Lamb (16.9 points) and their top replacement T.J. McConnell (6.8 pts, 4.6 assists). That’s a combined 43 points that the Pacers didn’t have at their disposal.
While the Pacers were the only viable Eastern Conference playoff opponent on the Bucks’ schedule during their winning streak, they played just one definite Western Conference playoff-caliber team: the Utah Jazz.
But the Jazz, like the Pacers, weren’t at full strength against the Bucks A team that is constructed around defense, the Jazz were without center Rudy Gobert, not only their best defender but the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
After playing yet another sub-.500 team –Detroit (8-13) on Wednesday night, the Bucks figure to finally get tested for the first time in almost a month– yes, a month – on Friday night when they host the L.A. Clippers.
It’ll mark the second and final regular-season meeting between the Bucks and Clippers, the first coming on Nov. 6 in L.A. The Bucks barely won that game 129-124 – even though the Clippers were without their two superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
After the Clippers’ encounter, the Bucks will get back to playing some more glorified G League teams. They’ll then face Orlando (9-11), New Orleans (6-15), Memphis (6-14) and Cleveland (5-15).
As pathetic of a schedule as the Bucks have played in the last month and the next week or so, the Lakers’ recent schedule has been an even bigger farce.
The Lakers had been matching the Bucks win-for-win, racking up a 10-game winning streak. Yet, in that stretch, the Lakers didn’t play one team with a winning record. In fact, the only team the Lakers beat with a marginally decent record was Phoenix, which is 9-10.
After LeBron James and Co. cleaned up with those lottery bound teams, they played a sure-fire playoff team in Dallas (14-6) on Sunday. The Lakers lost 114-100.
The Lakers, like the Bucks, have done what they were expected to do by feasting on the cupcakes of the league. Now, we’ll see just how good they are when they start playing legitimate competition.