No championship is ever easy, but the Milwaukee Bucks made things especially hard on themselves last season en route to their first title in 50 years. They fell behind in all three of their final series, twice went down 2-0 and had to win a Game 7 on the road against the Brooklyn Nets.
There were multiple points along the way where they appeared to be dead and buried, none more so than after Game 2 of their second-round series against the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant and Co. ran the Bucks out of the gym on that night, cruising to a 39-point win that was really only competitive for about a quarter.
It was such a disappointing performance that Bucks owner Marc Lasry made his way to the locker room to confront head coach Mike Budenholzer and demand an explanation. Via The Athletic:
“I remember after Game 2 (of the Eastern Conference semifinals), the Nets game, and I think we lose (by) whatever, thirty or forty,” Lasry, the billionaire CEO and co-founder of the equity firm, Avenue Capital Group, said during his visit on the Tampering podcast on Monday. “And I go in the locker room (after the Bucks lost 125-86), I look at Bud, and I’m like, ‘What the f—?! Like, what happened?!’ And he goes, ‘Marc, we’re just gonna break down film, we’re gonna go back and we’re gonna figure it all out.'”
Emotions will always run high after bad playoff losses, but Lasry’s response shows just how much pressure Budenholzer and the Bucks were dealing with — not only externally but internally. They had crashed out of the playoffs early in successive seasons, and were on the verge of doing so again despite signing Giannis Antetokounmpo to a max extension and trading for Jrue Holiday.
That, understandably, was not going to be acceptable to the ownership group and front office. Reports both before the playoffs and during the Nets series indicated that, at the very least, Budenholzer was unlikely to be back if the team didn’t make a deep run.
Of course, we know now that the Bucks did make the right adjustments and came back to not only beat the Nets but win it all. Budenholzer, true to his word, figured it all out and instead of being fired was rewarded with a new three-year contract extension.