Milwaukee Bucks Clinch Playoff Berth with Win over Philadelphia 76ers

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 9, 2017

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo drives to the basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers Friday, March 10, 2017, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

For the third time in the last five seasons, the Milwaukee Bucks have made the NBA playoffs—this time after a 90-82 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. 

After a disappointing 33-49 record in 2015-16, the Bucks appeared to be stuck in limbo. They weren't bad enough to get one of the top picks in the lottery, nor were they good enough to challenge the best of the Eastern Conference.

The tide turned during the 2016-17 season thanks in large part to the breakout performance of Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak turned into a bona fide superstar this year, averaging 23.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

Adi Joseph of USA Today noted in March that Antetokounmpo's season was deserving of even more hype than it was receiving:

Only eight players in NBA history have ever averaged 23, 8 and 5 on 50% shooting from the field. ... Antetokoumpo, 22, is the youngest player ever to put up this kind of line. (Oscar) Robertson was 24 and (Michael) Jordan and (Larry) Bird were 25. That means that Antetokoumpo would be the first player in his pre-prime years to put up a 22-8-5-50% line, though it’s worth noting that players generally enter the NBA and peak earlier now.

The Bucks looked like they would have two young superstars carrying them into the postseason for most of the year, but Jabari Parker's season was cut short on Feb. 8 when he tore the ACL in his left knee for second time in three years. 

Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports noted the return of Khris Middleton in the same game Parker was injured helped provide the Bucks with a spark:

The 25-year-old, whom Kidd called one of the league’s most underrated offensive talents, gave them stability, providing offensive continuity as both a second option behind Antetokounmpo and a go-to guy on the second unit, since the Bucks have been staggering their top two playmakers’ minutes. All the while, he’s brought the defensive intensity that’s also made him one of the NBA’s most underrated players on that end, and that Milwaukee had been so sorely lacking all season.

With one more win before the regular season ends, this would be the Bucks' first campaign finishing over .500 since 2009-10 when they won 46 games. They haven't advanced beyond the first round of the postseason since reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001.

The Bucks have quietly built one of the best stables of young talent in the NBA, though Parker's absence does hurt their offense heading into the playoffs. They are still in the embryonic stages of their development, even as they get ready for the postseason.

This is a dangerous franchise that will be a force in the NBA for a long time.      

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