The Milwaukee Bucks have not won an NBA championship since 1971, but 50 years later, they were presented with perhaps their best opportunity yet at breaking that streak. The Brooklyn Nets entered their second-round series as heavy championship favorites, but injuries to Kyrie Irving and James Harden gave Milwaukee an opening. Irving sat out Game 5 against the Bucks on Tuesday, and Harden was so hobbled that he could only give the Nets five points.
It didn’t matter because Kevin Durant scored 49 en route to a victory. The Bucks are now one game away from elimination, and if the Nets are healthier next season and beyond, their championship window is in serious jeopardy. Faith in the Bucks is now so limited that the player who led them to their last title, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, doesn’t think they can win it all this season regardless of Brooklyn’s injuries.
“No,” Abdul-Jabbar said when asked if the Bucks could win it all. “K.D. would kill those guys. I’m serious. He’d score and then he finds the open guy. He could do that by himself. They’ve gotta do a better job, the whole team has to play differently so that K.D., one guy can’t dominate like that.”
Abdul-Jabbar is something of an expert on the subject of championship capability. He won six of them in two decades as a professional. Only the first came with the Bucks, as Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Lakers in 1975. He won his last five championships there, and the Bucks haven’t made it back to the Finals since.
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But the Bucks haven’t lost a home game in this series, and Game 6 will be played in Milwaukee. They have a day to study up on what went wrong in Game 5 and adjust, though that admittedly has not been their strong suit. If Harden remains hobbled and Irving is still out, the Bucks still have a chance to turn this thing around. If Abdul-Jabbar is to be believed, though, it’s not a very good one.