The Milwaukee Bucks have surprised a lot of teams early on thanks to their hot start and are now a legitimate championship contender.
When the new ownership team purchased the Milwaukee Bucks four years ago, they made a commitment to the city. Since then, they have invested heavily in players, management, coaching and their state-of-the-art practice facility. The Fiserv Forum was the final piece.
Owner Marc Lasry recently stated, “We wanted to make sure everything was first class. Here’s our commitment to Milwaukee. We’re here for the long term. We’re not trying to save money. Our goal is to win a championship, and to do that, we’re going to do everything to be the best.”
In order for the Bucks to win a championship, what happens outside the stadium will be as important as what happens inside the Fiserv Forum.
Compared to other sports, home-court in the NBA provides the most significant advantage. This becomes even more pronounced in the playoffs. As a result, the ability to win on the road at an elite level is what separates the contenders from the pretenders. Cue the 2018-19 Milwaukee Bucks.
Entering Tuesday’s games, the Bucks were one of only nine teams with a winning road record on the season. At first glance, their 4-3 road record is somewhat unassuming. However, who a team plays and how well they play matters. Winning on the road against the Golden State Warriors is a much different feat compared to winning on the road against the Phoenix Suns. And while a buzzer-beater is exciting for a fan base, consistent blowouts reflect championship qualities.
The Bucks’ opponents have posted a scintillating 35-6 record in their home games, outside of their head-to-head matchups against Milwaukee. The collective .853 winning percentage is by far the toughest any team has faced this season. The Utah Jazz have played the second toughest road schedule but remain a distant second with their opponents posting a 28-9 home record (not including their head-to-head matchups).
Despite playing such a difficult road schedule, the Bucks have not only managed to post a winning road record but also have the second-best point differential in road games with a +40. The only team with a better point differential in road games is a certain team in Oakland who is going for a three-peat, a team the Bucks just completely dismantled a week ago.
Thus far in the NBA, a road team has won by 20 points or more on only 12 occasions. The Bucks and Warriors are the only two teams with multiple 20-point road wins. The Bucks also have one of the four 30-point road wins in the NBA this season. All of this suggests the Bucks 4-3 road record is about to leap forward as the season progresses and they play lesser competition.
Which leads us back to the Bucks ownership’s commitment to winning a championship. Teams who play in the NBA Finals, and ultimately win the trophy, win at an elite level on the road. Since 2008 (not including the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season) the NBA champion posted an average road record of 28-13. Teams with the best road record in their conference have advanced to the NBA Finals 16 times during this stretch. And finally, seven of the last 10 champions had the best overall road record in the NBA in their respective seasons.
So are the Bucks a serious contender? Could the owners’ vision of a championship become reality this season? Fans won’t need a Magic 8-Ball. The Bucks road record will tell the story.