Bucks Notes: First-Round Loss, Budenholzer, Free Agency, Antetokounmpo, Crowder

After winning a league-best 58 games during the regular season, the Bucks could only manage one victory against a determined Heat team in the postseason, writes Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The betting favorite to win the title heading into the playoffs saw its season end in shocking fashion Wednesday night with an epic fourth quarter collapse and an overtime loss.

“For me, I think this has been the worst postseason ever,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t think, you know, like we have a number in there, like every other team has a number (of games to win a title) like 16, 15, 14, and this like, we’re stuck at 15. I don’t think we’ve ever, as long as I’ve been in the playoffs, been stuck – maybe we lost in the first round – but not stuck at 15. Which is kind of hard to deal with.”

The back injury that Antetokounmpo suffered in Game 1 affected the direction of the series, but there were plenty of other explanations for Milwaukee’s first-round defeat. There were turnovers, missed free throws, rebounding lapses and a lack of focus at critical times.

Several players refused to talk to the media after being eliminated, but those who did expressed severe disappointment.

“I feel like we had the roster to do more than what we’ve done,” Jae Crowder said. “We came up short. Obviously we had a championship in mind and that’s the only conversation we always had, is championship. So we came up short big time. And we failed.”

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • Among the lapses were questionable coaching decisions by Mike Budenholzer, who was heavily criticized in the press and on social media following Wednesday’s loss. Budenholzer failed to call a timeout after Jimmy Butler tied the game with 0.5 seconds left in regulation or as the Bucks failed to get off a shot as the final buzzer sounded in overtime. There were rumors that Budenholzer might be fired before the Bucks won the title in 2021, and Tim Cato of The Athletic considers it unlikely that he’ll survive Wednesday’s performance.
  • Brook Lopez, who will be a free agent, and Khris Middleton, who has a $40.4MM player option, will be the names to watch this offseason, per Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link). If the front office brings back both players, the Bucks will be a tax team for the fourth straight year.
  • Antetokounmpo will become eligible for an extension in September, but that could just be a formality, according to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. Gozlan expects the two-time MVP to wait and seek a new long-term contract once his current deal expires.
  • Crowder is among several free agent bench players who face uncertain futures this summer. After the Bucks gave up five second-round picks to acquire him in February, he got into just three games and played 40 total minutes during the series, notes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link).
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