View Full Version : Bucks' collapse eclipses all others

04-21-2002, 11:08 AM
Here's the story (http://www.jsonline.com/sports/gen/apr02/36740.asp)

Bucks' collapse eclipses all others
Last Updated: April 20, 2002
Bob Wolfley

If you are struggling to recall any team in the National Basketball Association that had a nose dive comparable to the one completed by the Milwaukee Bucks this season, there's good reason.

It has never happened.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Milwaukee is the only team since the current playoff format began in 1983-'84 that was in first place in its division on the morning of March 16 then failed to make the playoffs.

On the morning of March 16, the Bucks were tied with the Detroit Pistons for first place in the Central Division at 36-27.

That night, the Pistons beat the Bucks, 102-94, to knock Milwaukee out of first place and into its historic dive.

Including the loss to the Pistons that night, the Bucks ended the season with a record of 5-14 (.263) to finish at 41-41 and out of the playoffs.

After the loss to Detroit on March 16, Bucks coach George Karl said: "They had to beat us. And they probably have to beat us in Detroit (on April 17), although I don't know if it's going to go to the last game or not. They had to win and we didn't have to win. Maybe that was the difference in the game."

My, how interesting.

Karl was implying that if his team had the urgency that the Pistons had on March 16, his team would have won. He was implying that the Pistons won a meaningless game, even if it was for first place in the Central Division.

After the Pistons won that game, the Bucks were up, 2-1, against Detroit in the first tie-breaker for playoff position.

Now we come to Wednesday night in Auburn Hills.

It was the Bucks who, to borrow Karl's italicized emphasis, had to win. The Pistons didn't have to win.

The Pistons had already locked in their No. 2 seeding for the playoffs.

Their carrots were 50 victories, Sam Cassell's guarantee and Karl's comments back on March 16.

Anyone who saw that game had to notice the energy, the glee, the purpose the Pistons showed in going about their appointed task. They showed great pleasure in their work.

The Pistons, the team that didn't have to win, humiliated the team that had to win, by 34 points.

"Around here, we don't talk about guarantees very often, but there are two things I can guarantee pretty surely," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said after the Pistons danced on the Bucks. "One is that this game meant a little more than George Karl thought it was going to mean. And the second thing is . . . Milwaukee is going home. Those are my guarantees for the night."

So as it turns out, the Bucks had another good reason to win the last game of the season against the Pistons.

They would have avoided their date with NBA infamy.

04-21-2002, 11:16 AM
Watching Karl just makes appreciate Nellie so much more. The big egos on the team (and nagging injuries) deserve some blame for the Bucks' stunning collapse in the final weeks for sure, but I just can't believe it's impossible for a coach to make them work together as a team.

04-21-2002, 11:25 AM
What's really shocking to me - Milwaukee, Miami and New York, who finished 2-3-4 last year, didn't even make the playoffs. And the top three teams in the East this year were in the lottery last year.