clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Bucks had the most humiliating first round exit in NBA Playoffs history

The Bucks completely collapsed in the fourth quarter of Game 5 for one of the sorriest first round exits in NBA history.

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Five Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Bucks were the safest pick to win the championship entering the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Part of that was because we’ve seen this team do it before: Milwaukee won the title in 2021 with a very similar roster, and may have went back-to-back last year if not for Khris Middleton’s knee injury in the playoffs. The Bucks were said to have ‘the best player in the world’ in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Middleton ended the regular season in good health, Jrue Holiday had one of the best seasons of his career at age-32, and Brook Lopez was as great as ever inside. Everything seemed to be lining up for Milwaukee’s second title run with this group.

Instead, the Bucks have been eliminated from the playoffs in a shocking first round upset against the Miami Heat. The Heat beat the Bucks, 128-126, to win Game 5 on Wednesday, capping the most painful first round exit ever by a top seed.

Miami had to win a do-or-die game against the Chicago Bulls in the play-in tournament just to get No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Two weeks later, they had dispatched of the championship favorite in just five games, making the Bucks the sixth No. 1 seed ever to not reach the second round, and the first No. 1 seed ever to only win one game in the playoffs.

The Bucks did not collapse in the series; Milwaukee simply got their brains beat in. The Heat took Game 1 after Antetokounmpo exited with a back injury and didn’t return. Milwaukee answered with a Game 2 win, but Miami took Game 3 as Giannis missed the next two games. Antetokounmpo returned for Game 4, and the Bucks looked like they would regain control for the series.

In reality, Milwaukee choked their season away in the biggest moments.

The Bucks had an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter of Game 4, but blew the game because they couldn’t stop Jimmy Butler, who scored 56 points in an all-time playoff performance. Milwaukee had a 16-point lead entering the fourth quarter of Game 5, and what happened next was one of the most excruciating collapses you will ever see from an NBA title favorite.

The Bucks shot 3-of-19 from the field in the fourth quarter. They shot 62 percent from the foul line on the night, with Giannis going 10-for-23. They completely abandoned the offensive flow they showcased earlier in the game, and settled for tough looks against a set defense. There were moments of mind-numbing carelessness with the ball.

The Bucks were up 117-114 with 14 seconds left. Miami’s Gabe Vincent immediately came down and drilled a three. The Bucks appeared to turn the ball over off the ensuring inbounds pass, but the refs blew the whistle and called a highly questionable foul on Kyle Lowry. The Heat challenged it, won, and the ball was jumped up at center court. The Bucks won the tip after a wild scramble, and Holiday was fouled. He split the free throws.

This is what happened next:

The Heat went on to win in overtime to close the series out in only five games. Unreal.

The Bucks blew it in so many ways.

Mike Budenholzer was throughly out-coached by Erik Spoelstra

Is this the end of the line for Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer? It sure feels like it the wake of the worst first round exit in NBA history. What was coach Bud doing? A lot of nothing.

A collapse like the one the Bucks had in the fourth quarter doesn’t happen without awful coaching. Milwaukee repeatedly tried to run post-ups late in the game. They didn’t call timeout when the Heat were going on their huge run. For some reason, Lopez — the team’s best rim protector — wasn’t on the floor on Butler’s game-tying tip-in at the basket to end regulation.

After Butler’s shot, the Bucks could have called timeout to advance the ball and get one more attempt to win the game. Only problem: Bud didn’t call timeout. The Bucks lost in overtime.

The Bucks also never altered their schemes on how to defend Butler.

Giannis even said so himself after the game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo played a bad game by his standards

Yes, Giannis was playing through a back injury when he returned in the series in Game 4. That doesn’t excuse the fact that the “best player in the world” was terrible down the stretch.

Giannis kept settling for jump shots in the fourth quarter instead of attacking the basket, despite the fact that he was missing everything. His struggles from the free throw line seemed to get to him — with six of his 13 misses coming in either the fourth quarter or overtime.

Giannis shot 1-for-9 in the fourth quarter. He finished with seven turnovers. He also committed a bad foul on a three-point shooter that gave the Bucks new life at the end of the fourth:

We know Antetokounmpo is phenomenal. His Game 6 performance in the 2021 NBA Finals was one of the best championship clinchers ever by a superstar. But this game was a rough look.

Grayson Allen had the worst last play possible for the Bucks

How do you not even get a shot off on the last possession? For whatever reason, Grayson Allen decided to Eurostep into nothing instead of try to tie or win the game.

The Bucks will have a hard time living this one down

The Bucks’ core pieces outside of Giannis are getting old. They need to re-sign Middleton this summer, and they’re facing a huge luxury tax bill. They don’t have their first round draft pick, and have very few avenues to improve the team.

This should have been a championship year for the Bucks. Instead, it will go down as one of the worst NBA playoff exits ever.