Author: Jonathan Mills
Rallying cries unite a fan base. It is a commonality, and there is something to be said about a rhyme that is as intimidating as it is catchy. When it was first accepted during the 2009-10 NBA regular season, it embodied one word for the Milwaukee Bucks: excitement. At the time, rising star Brandon Jennings and a cast of secondary pieces propelled the franchise to its best record since the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. The phrase echoed throughout the Bradley Center (rest in peace), local sports bars and across Bucks nation.
For a considerable amount of time, though, it was difficult to find a reason to Fear the Deer. The Bucks went 30 years at the Bradley Center with a total of 13 different coaches, 3 playoff series that ended in wins and alternated between 261 players that put on the Bucks uniform.
However, 2019 brewed a completely different drink on tap for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Milwaukee Bucks finished the regular season with 60 wins, the team’s highest-win total since the 1980-81 season. Arguably every night, the Bucks boast the best player on the court in the form of double-double machine Giannis Antetokounmpo. They’ve added key secondary names like George Hill and Nikola Mirotić. Stars have expressed their interest in playing for this relatively-small market team (i.e. Eric Bledsoe’s four-year extension earlier this year). Under new head coach Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks boasted a top-5 team in terms of offense and defense statistics. I could continue talking about their improved three-point percentages, obvious signs of improved team chemistry and equally impressive venue, the Fiserv Forum. Yet, I’m not going to stress the regular season.
In the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, the Bucks swiftly defeated the Detroit Pistons in a four-game sweep, their first playoff series victory since that same 2001 Eastern Conference Finals team. Offense and defense were on full display, as guys off the bench were rewarded with valuable late-game minutes when the score ballooned in Milwaukee’s favor.
However, the Boston Celtics manifest a new type of opponent in Round 2. They boast postseason experience, the best closer in the game of basketball (Kyrie Irving, in my opinion) and a lineup of ballers spanning from the court vision of Gordon Hayward to the defensive strengths of Al Horford.
Yet, the Bucks are built to withstand this test, and the next as they lead the Celtics 2 games to 1 currently in a best of 7 series. They were the best team in the East by far this season, and more to that it was all season as the best team. This isn’t complicated. Take a look at their carefully designed roster, for starters. They have a bona-fide superstar, a couple of upper-tier caliber players and veteran leaders who are helping guide the young guns. They can shoot, defend and push the offense. Given the team’s overall length, it is a beneficial characteristic to a team that works best when all parts are moving.
Bias aside, I really like this team’s chances. Plus, the numbers back me (and the thousands of Bucks fans and the occasional sports analyst) who take my side as well. The Bucks are outscoring opponents by eight points per 100 possessions in comparison to the Golden State Warriors, who sit at just 6.4 points per 100 possessions. They also have the NBA’s best adjusted net rating. Oh, and the food at Fiserv is pretty darn good.
So, when Milwaukee finds itself in moments of pressure from the Boston Celtics and potentially beyond, just remember to fear the deer, not the process.