The Milwaukee Bucks are in a tough spot right now. They currently sport a 19-30 record which features a distinct inability to win on the road. The injuries have taken their toll this season as far as putting a consistent line-up on the floor.
Although the Eastern Conference playoff bracket will probably allow for two losing teams, I feel the season is on the line over the next six games. Milwaukee needs to make a statement before the All-Star break to build some momentum. If this doesn't happen, I guess the question has to be asked.
Is it time to let the "tanking" begin?
The Bucks have claimed the scalps of some elite teams this season such as the Lakers, Magic and Mavericks. Other notables include two wins against the Hawks, two wins against the Bobcats along with victories over the playoff contending Pacers and Knicks.
The main problem is on the road, and more notably on the road against bad teams. Milwaukee has dropped games at Philadelphia, Minnesota, Detroit, Houston, Phoenix and Cleveland by an average of nine points per contest. This leaves their road record looking quite sickly at 8-19.
Milwaukee has certainly got a crossroads situation brewing with four of their next six games before the All-Star break at home. The time is now to right the ship or simply let it sail.
Let's take a look at the Bucks next six games, including Wednesday's contest at home against the Raptors. If this team has ever needed a six-game winning streak, it's now.
Feb 8: vs. Toronto
Raise your hand if you love the fact the "Craptors" will not be featuring in the playoffs? This team is not good at all and presents the Bucks with yet another danger game. Having got past Toronto in overtime only a fortnight ago, the Bucks will again need big contributions from Bogut, Maggette and Ilyasova to get over the line.
Toronto's shooting guard tandem of DeRozan and Weems shot a combined 9-27 from the field in their last meeting. Another great defensive perimeter game is paramount. Finally, the Bucks will see Jennings and Salmons back this time around. More good signs.
Feb 9: @ Washington
Like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, "there's no place like home" for this team from Washington. Having not won a road game all season seems hard to believe, and even more so when you realize this young team sports a half-decent 13-12 record at home.
Have I mentioned that these are all danger games?
The Bucks took care of the Wizards quite comfortably in their last meeting, but it was outside of the "safety blanket" which Washington calls the Verizon Center. Another strong performance from Milwaukee's guards will be key here.
Feb 11: @ Memphis
This game requires a big turnaround as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph basically walked in to the Bradley Center and had their way with the Bucks on Jan. 22. Revenge should be on the Bucks' collective minds as the previous contest will have embarrassed them on their home court.
Feb 12: vs. Indiana
Another "Jekyll and Hyde" team to face in this crucial time. Indiana is almost always the first team to 20 points, so a slow start is off the menu for Milwaukee. Andrew Bogut should get the Indiana bigs in foul trouble early and this can set the Bucks up for a much needed win.
Feb 14: vs. LA Clippers
As long as DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin don't posterize Jon Brockman again, this will almost count as a "W." Also, call me sentimental but as much everyone may love Griffin, it would be nice to beat him on Valentine's Day.
Feb 15: vs. Denver
The final game before the break will likely prove to be the most difficult. The Denver Nuggets have weapons galore, it just depends on how or if they use them. One thing's for certain, the Bucks will need to shoot better than the 40 percent they displayed on Dec. 1.
With Carmelo "Doug Christie" Anthony already dreaming of his wife's New York success, this is definitely a game the Bucks can take if they play well.
This six-game stretch will give the Bucks and their fans a clear picture of what this season will produce. If they see a 6-0 result, the playoffs are a realistic goal and the run to the postseason (and a new "fear the deer" playoff campaign) beckons. On the other hand, if the Bucks falter here, the lottery looks a lot better than a 10th place finish in the East.
Having the last three games before the All-Star break in Milwaukee gives the Bucks a nice spell at home to rest and recuperate. Then, depending on how this next week goes the mission will be simple.
Tank or not to tank?
That is the question.
Thanks for reading.