Hailey Meuchel, CBS Sports

Fiserv Forum has seen its fair share of surprising celebrities and high-profile guests since it opened in 2018. It's going to be hard for anyone to top the President of Iceland showing up last year for sheer randomness, but the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City gave Mr. Jóhannesson a run for his money during the Bucks' first home game back from the All-Star break. 

I was in the media room when word started to spread about their arrival, so I missed their on-court photoshoot, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend. Thankfully, I did get to see their incredible attempt at a T-shirt toss and was able to head over to their set up on the suite level during the game. The amount of cameras and crew members was staggering. 

The camera operators I talked to weren't even sure themselves why the Housewives were at a Bucks-Hornets game in February, but I did confirm with them that their appearance at Fiserv will be part of an episode on the upcoming season. 

Also, the Bucks won by 38. 

A six-game winning streak and an interview denied

When the Bucks announced that Giannis Antetokounmpo would be out for their matchup with the Clippers on March 10 due to left Achilles tendinitis, it seemed likely that their post-All-Star winning streak would come to an end. And when the Clippers opened up a 15-point lead in the third quarter, it seemed all but certain. 

Instead, the Bucks stormed back behind Damian Lillard and Bobby Portis for one of their best wins of the season and extended their streak to six games. Finally, it seemed, the team had figured things out. 

It wasn't just that they were winning games, it was that, under Doc Rivers, their defense was stifling. They held four opponents under 100 points and had the best defensive rating (102.6) in the league by three whole points during that stretch. Even though they hadn't faced the stiffest competition, it felt like a massive step in the right direction. 

Long after the win over the Clippers, after most players had cleared out of the Bucks' locker room, I sat waiting for one of the architects of the defensive turnaround: Patrick Beverley. As I began to ask a question, he turned the interview on me: "Have you subscribed to the pod?" 

I admitted I had not subscribed to his eponymous podcast. "No interview for you then," Beverley said, as he turned and left. 

Jae Crowder, who watched this back and forth, laughed to himself. I did too. What else can you do in that situation?

West Coast blues

With their six-game winning streak in tow, the Bucks hit the road for their final West Coast swing of the season. It started in disappointing fashion with a blowout loss to the Warriors, then got worse with a defeat to the LeBron James-less Lakers. Add in another 35-point embarrassment at the hands of the Kings, and all the positive momentum built after the All-Star break was gone. 

"I'm not going to overplay it," Rivers said in Sacramento. "It's one game, but we had two of them on this trip." 

Rivers' comments about Milwaukee's issues against teams that play with pace and ball movement, however were telling, especially on the heels of its apparent defensive turnaround. 

"I worry about it, yeah," Rivers said. "I think that's what we're going to have to improve. Teams that play with pace and move the ball, we have struggled against all year. You know, the Indiana Pacers being that as an example. And so we have to figure out the right formula to do that. We will, but we don't have it right now."

Middleton's return and statement performances

The vibes were better once the Bucks got back to Milwaukee, in large part because Khris Middleton was making his long-awaited return after missing 16 games with an ankle sprain. 

"I've been doing this a long time," Middleton said after putting up 22 points on the Suns in his first game back. "I know how to slow myself and not try to go too fast or speed myself up. I know how to come in, play at my pace and change my pace. A lot of the work I was doing at rehab was just trying to make sure my wind was there, my conditioning was as good as it can be."

The Bucks won four home games in a row, delivering some convincing performances along the way, including a 140-point effort against the Suns without Antetokounmpo, and a 25-point beatdown against the Thunder

Lillard had the first 30-point, 15-assist outing in Bucks history against the Suns, Antetokounmpo went for 30 points and 19 rebounds versus the Thunder and Middleton more or less looked like his old self. Those wins, and the manner in which they were delivered, sent a statement that, for all their issues, the Bucks can still beat anybody. 

Antetokounmpo and co. were not the only ones shining on the court inside Fiserv Forum those days. During the win over the 76ers on March 14, halftime show legends Christian and Scooby made an appearance. I've seen their act countless times before, I follow them on Instagram, I'm even aware that Scooby is a stage name and the dog's real name is Percy. 

But like any of the all-time greats, it never gets old to see them work in person. You know Scooby's going to take a walk on the basketballs and then later throw down a 360 dunk on the mini-hoop, and you still can't wait to see it. Bravo, my friends. 

Stumbling into disaster

Inconsistency has been the Bucks' best friend this season, and the two would not part down the stretch. 

A few days after crushing the Thunder, they hosted the Lakers, who were once again without James. They blew a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter and eventually lost a thriller in double-overtime

After salvaging a split against the Pelicans and Hawks, the schedule became more favorable, with matchups against the lowly Wizards, injury-ravaged Grizzlies and tanking Raptors lined up. They dropped them all, including the latter two at home. The quotes and reactions became more worrying with each one. 

"I don't know. I think focus. I don't know what it is," Rivers said when asked about the Bucks' continued road struggles after the Wizards game. "You know, it's funny, I've actually been sitting back and watching everything. Not just our players, but our travel crew, everything and I've made a lot of notes. I will say that. I won't share that.

"But we don't bring the necessary professionalism, seriousness on the road. And that's something that we can fix. And that's something we're going to have to fix."

Antetokounmpo never looked quite right during the loss to the Grizzlies, and Rivers admitted afterward that he should have taken his star out of the game to protect him from himself. In the locker room, Antetokounmpo touted the benefit of playing through pain, saying "it's going to help me in the long run." 

Before he spoke, Antetokounmpo grabbed a shoe box and a piece of paper, and huddled up with Brook Lopez and Andre Jackson Jr. The trio spent nearly 10 minutes in deep discussion about the offense, with Antetokounmpo repeatedly diagramming sets. This session wasn't as big of a show as the one he had at the whiteboard early in the season, but it was another reminder that the Bucks are still searching for answers. 

"I just feel like we're a lot better than that," Lillard said following the Raptors game. "I just told Brook (Lopez) I haven't experienced losing three in a row at this point in the season to three of the worst teams, by record, in the league, but I've had a similar experience a few times where it was like end of the season and you're like, 'Man, what are we doing? What the hell is going on?' And I think we all have that feeling, but it's not a lack of effort or care."

"The last three were against three bad teams. To me, that's inexcusable. For all of us," Rivers added. "As I told them, this is on me. I gotta figure out what we gotta do to play at a higher pace."

It wasn't until the first half against the Celtics on April 9 that the Bucks looked sharp again. And then disaster struck. Late in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo was jogging down the court when he collapsed and grabbed for his lower leg. I was sitting up in the nosebleeds with my family, who had come to cheer on the Celtics, at the time, and the concern throughout the arena was palpable. I sprinted back to my seat and had a story published within 10 minutes. It would take longer to learn the full extent of Antetokounmpo's injury – a calf strain, but no Achilles damage. 

Rivers acknowledged the next day that the results of the MRI offered "some relief" around the organization, but said all he could do was "hope" that Antetokounmpo would be ready for the playoffs in a few weeks time. 

It's going down, I'm yelling 'playoffs'

The Bucks had a few more games to close out the regular season, but nobody really cared. Antetokounmpo was ruled out, and his status for the playoffs was far more important than their seed or matchup, which ended up being No. 3 and the Pacers

On April 15, Shams Charania reported that Antetokounmpo was a "real doubt" for Game 1 of the series. The next day, Adrian Wojnarowski said that the Bucks were preparing to be without Antetokounmpo for the start of the series, but were hopeful he could return at some point. 

Rivers offered little in the way of details after practice on April 16. 

"He's doing well," Rivers said. "He's walking around and looks good. I can say he's farther than we thought he would be, but just not ready yet… I'm still hopeful [he can play at some point], but I just have no idea right now."

A few days later, on April 18, Bucks president Peter Feigin confirmed Antetokounmpo would not play in Game 1, and said the team expected him back at some point during the playoffs. Charania reported a two-to-four-week timeline. Game 2 versus the Pacers is set for April 23, exactly two weeks post-injury. A potential Game 7 would be on May 4, just under the four-week mark. 

If this were a different injury, there would be no doubt that Antetokounmpo would play through it, but as he himself said back in March, "Calves, hamstrings, they're shaky. If you have a strain or whatever the case may be... you don't mess with stuff like that." The images of Kevin Durant's Achilles rolling up into a ball during the 2019 Finals are still seared into every basketball fan's mind, and no one wants to see the same happen to Antetokounmpo. 

He will likely take the risk and play at some point, but to what effect remains to be seen. His interior presence is the Bucks' biggest advantage against the Pacers, and they may need him to avoid another first-round exit.