By Jeffrey Newholm
Friday the NBA released full 2018-19 schedules for all 30 teams. While many eyes looked to LA and Oakland, followers of a more balanced east would be advised to peer into the Forum. The Fiserv Forum, that is, the new home of the promising young Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo and new coach Mike Budenholzer will have 82 opportunities to tune up for what’s sure to be a legitimate chance at a deep playoff run.
After opening in Charlotte, the Bucks will officially begin the Forum era against Indiana on October 19th. Milwaukee also hosts a game apiece against east challengers Philadelphia and Toronto in October. After the typically challenging west cost road trip in November (including a visit to the Oracle), the deer can feast in a six game homestand against lesser competition.
When the calendar turns to a frigid Wisconsin December, the Bucks will be faced with eight road contests. Included in this list is promising contests against east foes Toronto, Indiana, Cleveland, and Boston. Perhaps the biggest home contest of the year will tip-off on the 7th at 8:30 against the feared Warriors. (But perhaps not feared by Milwaukee, who ended the dub’s 24-0 run in 2015). Christmas offers a gift not received since 1977: a game, this one in Madison Square Garden at 11 AM central. Bucks fans can then unwrap another six game slate, highlighted by defending #1 seed Toronto.
Eight of the final eleven January games will be away from the Forum. Tedium may set in during this uninteresting stretch, but an exciting 9th visit to Houston will measure Giannis’s Gang’s progress. In February, another seven out of eleven games are on the road. With only a challenging match in Boston looming, this will be an opportunity to climb to the top four.
March, continuing the trend, offers seven road matches against merely fair squads. But college won’t be able to steal TV ratings. The Lakers and Rockets make their only visits on consecutive Tuesdays, the 19th and 26th respectively. An abbreviated April concludes the regular season with Forum fights versus the Nets, Hawks, and Thunder. If Milwaukee fulfills suddenly realistic expectations, they will enjoy hosting the next two games to begin the 2019 postseason.
While the Forum will excite fans (and empty their wallets), the regular season is sure to be a grind. The same is true for all 30 teams, excepting only rare 70 win beasts. But Antetokounmpo, now in his sixth year, has never been more confident and able. The only way to get the ball across the court is dribble by dribble, pass by pass. If the Bucks take 82 correct steps, with some learnable mistakes expected, they will enter the playoffs finally ready for a playoff series win and, with the east less frightening, possibly much more.