Bucks hold off Clippers to move into seventh place

LOS ANGELES — The Milwaukee Bucks avoided a late-game collapse to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 97-96 Wednesday night and move into seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Milwaukee used a 30-point fourth quarter to stay ahead of Los Angeles, while Blake Griffin’s last-second shot missed the mark. Clippers coach Doc Rivers didn’t place the blame on Griffin for missing the shot.

“We just couldn’t get multiple stops,” Rivers said. “We got a couple stops because we cut the lead, but I just thought we failed to get big stops.”

Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks with 16 points apiece, but it was likely the late three-pointer from Matthew Dellavedova that was the final nail in the coffin. The dagger put Milwaukee up 97-91 with 1:17 remaining in regulation. Milwaukee’s ability to keep Los Angeles off the three-point line was also crucial, as the Clippers made just five of their 24 (20.8 percent) three-point attempts.

The Bucks remain in Los Angeles for Friday night’s contest with the Lakers, scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m. CT.

Bucks chasing down slim playoff chances

LOS ANGELES — When the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, they’ll do so with slim odds of making the postseason.

FiveThirtyEight.com projects the Bucks to finish with a 39-43 record, good enough for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and two spots out of the playoff spot. That translates to a 37 percent chance of making the postseason, but with just a 24 percent probability of beating the Clippers, those odds may dwindle further on this six-game road trip.

The Bucks had won six in a row heading into Memphis Monday night, but failed to capitalize on what should have been a very winnable game. With 11 of their remaining 16 games on the road, Milwaukee will have to improve on its road record of 12-18 (.400) if it wants to make the postseason for the second time in three years. Six of Milwaukee’s remaining games come against teams with winning records.

The preseason hamstring injury to Khris Middleton severely hampered the Bucks’ three-point shooting, but Milwaukee’s luck got even worse once Middleton returned prior to the All Star break. One has to wonder how Jabari Parker’s second ACL tear affects the team and where it may have been had Parker stayed healthy.

Milwaukee’s playoff chances peaked on Jan. 4 when it was 18-16, following a 105-104 win over the New York Knicks. FiveThirtyEight.com gave the Bucks a 1541 rating, which was slightly above the average rating of 1500.

With a tough schedule remaining and down a key player, will the Bucks pack it in and try better next year? If they miss the playoffs, will people give coach Jason Kidd a pass or hold him accountable?

 

Energized Bucks down turnover-prone Clippers 112-101

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks forced the Los Angeles Clippers into 23 turnovers on their way to a 112-101 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Friday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greg Monroe put up 24 points apiece in the win, helping the offense put together a 20-2 run  at the end of the first quarter to give Milwaukee a 23-point cushion. That lead was nearly squandered by the end of the third quarter, but a 15-2 run kept Milwaukee ahead for good.

The win helped ease the pain of a 110-98 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night. Coach Jason Kidd preached effort during Thursday’s practice.

”I thought their intent, their energy, their focus and the carry-over to tonight was very good,” Kidd said.

The Clippers shot 56 percent from the field, but 11 steals by the Bucks made any comeback effort difficult for Chris Paul and his crew. Paul finished with 21 points for LA, fighting through a sore left thumb (torn ligament).

The Bucks have eased Khris Middleton into the starting lineup after returning from a torn hamstring about a month ago. He finished with 19 points and nine assists, and plans to start Saturday night when Milwaukee hosts the Toronto Raptors.