Milwaukee Bucks need to ‘Own the Present’

The Milwaukee Bucks have been using the ‘Own the Future’ slogan since the 2014-15 season. That was the second season in the NBA for forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, the first for oft-injured forward Jabari Parker, and the first with coach Jason Kidd at the helm. Milwaukee was coming off of a 15-win season the year before. The slogan was appropriate at the time with today’s core of Antetokounmpo, Parker, Khris Middleton, and John Henson having little experience.

That team went 41-41 and made the playoffs before losing to the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Milwaukee pushed the series to six games and that was an accomplishment against that Chicago squad. The Bucks had plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. They were ahead of schedule for competing in the playoffs.

Fast-forward to today and there are still reasons to be optimistic about the future of this team. Antetokounmpo is one of the best young players in the NBA, and likely one of the 10 best players in the world. He’s a superstar in the league and has the potential to one day be the league’s best.

While the reasons to be optimistic still exist, the team isn’t ahead of schedule anymore, rather they’re falling behind.

Antetokounmpo is in his fifth season in the NBA, Middleton and Henson are in their sixth, and newly acquired guard Eric Bledsoe is in his eighth. Sure, they can still be considered young to some degree with Antetokounmpo only 23, but they’ve been around. These guys are veterans. Add in other players like Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry that have championship experience and the team doesn’t look nearly as young as the slogan might suggest.

At this point, only reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker, and Sterling Brown can be considered true young guys in the rotation. When Parker returns from his second torn ACL the case can be made for him as well. He’s technically in his fourth season, but he’s already missed 138 games in his career.

This season was when the Bucks were expected to compete for a top-4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Last year they finished above .500 and took the Toronto Raptors to six games in the first round of the playoffs. This year was supposed to be the year that Milwaukee made that jump from the lovable young team to one that could win a playoff series and push teams like Cleveland, Boston, and Toronto at the top of the conference.

In spurts this team has shown just how good they can be. They’ve beaten Cleveland, Boston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Minnesota this season. The Bucks have shown they can compete at a high level. They just haven’t shown the ability to be consistent in doing so.

A perfect example of this was the recent frustrating loss to Miami on Wednesday. The Bucks were leading the Heat heading into the fourth quarter. It was a game that they had every chance to win against a team that’s very similar to who they are. Miami is a team with less star power than Milwaukee, similar experience. In fact, the post LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh era Heat probably have less experience than the Bucks do.

“I think when you become 25 [years old] or on the 28 [years old] range you tend to think about the game,” said Kidd following the loss to Miami. “We’re talking about kids that are thinking about trying to put the ball in the basket and they all believe they can do it. Until we can think about being a team and making a play and being unselfish, bad things will happen. Good things can happen, we’ve seen it. When we’re selfish we are as bad as anybody. There’s no coaching, there isn’t anything you can do but go through it and learn. And we can keep telling them what’s coming, but the final decision is up to them and right now we have a hard time doing that.”

What Kidd said can be interpreted a number of different ways. It can be viewed as a coach becoming increasingly frustrated with the performance of his team, hiding behind the perception of being a young, inexperienced team, or a shot at Antetokounmpo.

Kidd’s frustrations would be warranted. There is growing angst among fans that Kidd is the problem with the Bucks and needs to go. One could speculate that his seat may be getting warm as the Bucks continue to underachieve. Whether or not Kidd’s job is on the line is up for debate and not the conversation this column is focusing on.

This being a shot at Antetokounmpo could make sense because of the players on the floor for the Bucks in the fourth quarter taking shots, he’s the only one that falls outside of the 25-28-year-old age range that Kidd mentioned. Middleton and Bledsoe were the other two players for Milwaukee to get multiple shots up in the final period. They’re 26 and 28, respectively.

In the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo was 1-of-5 shooting, including 1-of-2 from behind the arc. He routinely settled for ill-advised mid-range jumpers instead of attacking the rim. He has yet to develop an effective outside shot, and relying on that down the stretch of a close game isn’t what the Bucks are looking for.

The last option, hiding behind the ‘Own the Future’ slogan, is one that is growing old. The Bucks have been ‘Owning the Future’ since 2014-15. When exactly does the future become the present?

“We are a young team, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” Middleton said. “That’s been an excuse for five years, since I’ve been here. I mean, getting better, it comes with experience. I mean, what we’re going through right now we’ve been through it for a long time. At some point that experience has to kick through, hopefully it will this season.”

Middleton is correct. The excuse of being a young team has grown stale. While it would make sense from a marketing standpoint for the Bucks to shed that slogan heading into next season when a new arena in downtown Milwaukee opens up, this team needs to start owning the present day instead of perpetually waiting for the future to arrive.

Last shots: Heat 106, Bucks 101

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Miami Heat for the second time in four days on Wednesday night by a final score of 106-101.

Eighteen last shots for the 18 minutes played by Milwaukee guard Matthew Dellavedova on Wednesday night.

1. The Bucks continue to struggle to find consistency. On Monday afternoon, they beat a very talented Wizards team convincingly. The day before they played arguably their worst game of the season when they lost to the Heat (26-18) in Miami. The brief two-game road trip was an accurate characterization of the 2017-18 season for the Bucks.

2. Wednesday night Milwaukee (23-21) had an opportunity to win consecutive games for the first time since late December when they beat Minnesota and Oklahoma City on back-to-back nights. In the 10 games following the victory over the Thunder the Bucks have alternated wins and losses, with the exception being back-to-back losses against Golden State and Miami.

3. The fight to find consistency has been a difficult one for the Bucks. Not only are they struggling to find it from game to game, but they’re unable to find it for full games. Wednesday night was yet another example of that.

4. After a relatively slow start, Milwaukee played well for the better part of the first three quarters. They held a 79-78 lead entering the final quarter before they fell into the usual bad habits that have cost them numerous games over the course of this season.

5. In the fourth quarter the ball stuck. The Bucks weren’t executing their offense as well as they had before that. Milwaukee started to take poor shots, their passes were limited, and they settled for contested looks. The Bucks made 7-of-18 field goals in the fourth quarter. Khris Middleton scored 13 points and was 5-of-8 from the floor. He was the only player for Milwaukee to make multiple shots. The rest of the team was 2-of-10 shooting.

6. “We have to play together. That’s pretty much it,” said guard Eric Bledsoe, who was 1-of-4 in the game’s final period. “We tried to make small one-on-one plays down the stretch, including myself.”

7. The ugly isolation style of basketball haunts plenty of teams throughout the NBA during the closing moments of games. Plenty of teams have experienced this before this incarnation of the Bucks, plenty others are experiencing it now, and plenty more will in the future.

8. Rarely can a team rely on a single player to continue to make play after play down the stretch. There are instances where it happens, tonight not being one of them. The Bucks need to shed the selfishness that has continued to plague them.

9. The Bucks often rely on forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to take care of things down the stretch. At times, he’s certainly capable. Other times, like tonight, he settles for contested mid-range jumpers and ill-advised 3-pointers. He finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists on the night, but the Bucks needed more from him in the fourth quarter. Antetokounmpo was 1-of-5 shooting from the field in the period. He missed both his free throws he attempted and failed to get to the rim on a consistent basis. Two of the shots he attempted were from behind the arc, with others coming from just inside of it.

10. The reason for the selfishness can be attributed to various things. Whether it’s youth, overconfidence, or something else, it’s continuing to cost Milwaukee winnable games.

11. “In that first half, we moved the ball and made plays for one another,” said Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd. “Fast forward to the fourth quarter, the ball just stuck and whoever had it took it upon themselves to score and you’re not going to win in this league like that. We’re not good enough to do that yet, and this has happened before. We haven’t won a game playing that way. When we start to trust and move the ball and get open shots, that’s when we’re at our best. That fourth quarter is a great example of us just being selfish and playing bad basketball.”

12. Kidd isn’t often this harsh following games, which is understandable. Coaches often want to keep messages like this one in house. Quotes like this can often times lead to turmoil among teams, especially young ones. With that being said, it needed to be said, and could be a way of jump starting this team.

13. “I think when you become 25 [years old] or in the 28 [years old] range you tend to think about the game. We’re talking about kids that are thinking about trying to put the ball in the basket and they all believe they can do it. Until we think about being a team and making a play and being unselfish, bad things will happen. Good things can happen, we’ve seen it. When we’re selfish we are as bad as anybody. There’s no coaching, there isn’t anything you can do but go through it and learn. And we can keep telling them what’s coming, but the final decision is up to them and right now we have a hard time doing that.”

14. Kidd is correct in his assessment that higher basketball IQ comes with more experience and time in the league. That being said, Bledsoe is in his eighth season in the league and Antetokounmpo is in his fifth. These lessons shouldn’t need to be learned by them anymore.

15. Miami played a drastically different style of basketball in the fourth quarter. They shared the basketball and were able to create good shots because of it. Kelly Olynyk scored 10 points for Miami in the fourth, including the first eight to start the period for Miami. He finished the night with 15 points off the bench for Miami.

16. Another issue that Milwaukee had was containing Heat center Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside finished with a game-high 27 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks. He was 10-of-12 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. Nothing Milwaukee did defensively was good enough to stop him.

17. “He was a monster tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You could see it from his very first block, his first over the top rebound in traffic and his very first drive. You could see that he was playing with a different aggressiveness.”

18. The Bucks will be back in action on Saturday night in Philadelphia taking on the 76ers. Tip off from the Wells Fargo Center is at 6:30 PM.

Bucks lose to Heat 97-79

The Milwaukee Bucks opened up their quick two game east coast road trip with a 97-79 loss in Miami on Sunday afternoon.

Milwaukee struggled on the offensive end finishing the game with an abysmal shooting percentage of 31.6 (25-79) from the floor. That mark included the Bucks shooting 4-of-28 from behind the 3-point line. The 14.3% mark from deep is the worst for Milwaukee this season, surpassing their loss to Washington in November where they finished the game 4-of-22 (18.2%) from deep.

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading scorer for Milwaukee. He finished the afternoon with 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting and knocked down all 10 free throws that he attempted.

While the Bucks did manage to have four of their five starters reach double-figures in scoring, guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Khris Middleton had especially tough days. Those two combined to shoot 7-of-32 from the floor including 1-of-14 from behind the arc. Bledsoe finished the afternoon with 10 points while Middleton had 16, thanks in large part to a 9-of-10 performance from the free throw line.

The Bucks did hold a 43-41 lead at halftime, but then they struggled to find a rhythm offensively in the second half. Miami outscored them 30-16 in the third quarter to open up a 71-59 lead heading into the fourth.

The loss knocks Milwaukee to 22-20 on the season. Miami has now won seven consecutive games, the longest active win streak in the NBA. The Bucks will be back in action on Monday afternoon in Washington D.C. to take on the Wizards on Martin Luther King Day. Tip off is set for 1pm.

Last Shots: Bucks 102, Timberwolves 96

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks had their biggest comeback win of the season on Thursday night, defeating the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves 102-96 after trailing by 20 points in the third quarter.

Twenty last shots for the 20-point comeback win over the Timberwolves.

1. On Wednesday night, the Timberwolves defeated the Denver Nuggets in overtime before having to fly into Milwaukee and playing the Bucks on Thursday night. Early in the game they weren’t the ones that looked exhausted. Minnesota held a 26-16 lead after the first quarter and had a lead as large as 14 at times. There was little to no energy from Milwaukee.

2. Things changed in the second quarter. Milwaukee looked much better on the offensive end after scoring a season low 16 points in the first. They still trailed by 10 heading into the break, however, as both teams scored 30 points in the period.

3. Things were different rotationally for Milwaukee as well. Guard Malcolm Brogdon, typically one of the first players off the bench for Milwaukee, didn’t check in until late in the second quarter. Instead the first players off the bench for the Bucks were Thon Maker and Sterling Brown. They entered at the 10:05 mark of the first period for Tony Snell and John Henson.

4. After the game Kidd was asked about this substitution since it was odd to see a move to the bench so quickly, specifically bringing Brown in.

5. “They just made a mistake and we needed to talk about it,” coach Jason Kidd said about the moves. “I thought they fixed it after we talked about it. Understanding what the game plan was, and they didn’t execute it right away. Being pros, those guys responded in a positive way.”

6. Henson certainly responded well to the move. He finished the night with 14 points and four rebounds. Henson didn’t miss a shot, making all seven that he attempted on the night.

7. The start of the third quarter was similar to the start of the game. The Bucks played a sluggish 5 minutes to open the half. They saw their deficit of 10 points grow to 20 after Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns hit a layup with 7:13 left in the period.

8. That prompted a Milwaukee timeout as the Bucks were booed off the floor by their home fans.

9. “We know what they’re booing for,” guard Eric Bledsoe said. “It’ll help us, it’ll motivate us. You know, getting booed on your home court, you know. Nobody wants to do that. It’s a bad sign. You’re playing like s***.”

10. After the Bucks were booed off the floor they outscored Minnesota by 26 points in the final 19:13 of the game.

11. By the end of the third quarter the Bucks had cut the Minnesota lead down to nine at 84-75. It was still an uphill battle, but the game went from embarrassing to winnable during that stretch.

12. Milwaukee opened up the fourth by turning up the intensity defensively. The limited Minnesota to just 12 points in the quarter. Those 12 points included a meaningless 3-pointer by Wolves forward Jimmy Butler as the clock ran out. Had that not gone down, Milwaukee would have held Minnesota to a single-digit scoring total in the final period. That’s quite the feat defensively.

13. The fourth quarter scoring for the Bucks came from a few different players, but Bledsoe may have had the two biggest buckets of the period. First, with 2:25 left in regulation he knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Bucks the lead for the first time all evening at 95-93. The Bucks got a stop on Minnesota’s next possession with Butler missing a 3-pointer. Giannis Antetokounmpo grabbed the rebound and got the ball into Bledsoe’s hands.

14. Bledsoe got down the court, into the lane, absorbed contact from Minnesota’s Tyus Jones, and made the layup after the foul. The crowd exploded, Bledsoe let out a scream on the baseline, and the lead grew to five after he knocked down the ensuing free throw. That lead of five felt insurmountable at the moment and that proved true.

15. “It means passionate for sure,” Bledsoe said. “You gotta love it. You just feel it when you go out there. Everybody is on your side, especially when you’re playing at home. You’ve gotta love it. If you don’t feel it than you don’t need to be out there playing.”

16. It’s odd not mentioning Antetokounmpo until last shot No. 12, but that’s the kind of night it was. It isn’t that he wasn’t effective, but more so that he had a quiet 22 points and 10 rebounds.

17. Antetokounmpo did score six of his points in the fourth quarter, including a fadeaway to tie the game at 90 and a layup to put the game out of reach with 1:04 left.

18. There are going to be nights where Antetokounmpo isn’t at his best. That’s bound to happen over the course of an 82-game season. The fact that the Bucks were able to overcome a 20-point second half deficit while not getting the MVP-version of Antetokounmpo is a good sign moving forward.

19. While the win feels big at the moment, just as the victory over Cleveland two weeks ago did, time will tell on whether or not this was a turning point for the up-and-down Bucks.

20. Milwaukee now faces the daunting challenge of having to travel for the second night of a back-to-back. They’re on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. Oklahoma City has been hot as of late, compiling a 12-3 record in the month of December. The Thunder have won six games in a row and are 20-15 on the season after starting 8-12. Tip-off is at 7PM from Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Bucks 109, Hornets 104: Last shots

Milwaukee — The Milwaukee Bucks knocked off the Charlotte Hornets 109-104 on Friday night thanks to 78 combined points from Eric Bledsoe, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton.

Twelve last shots for Middleton’s 12 made field goals.

1. After beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in their last outing on Tuesday night, Milwaukee was potentially staring down a trap game against the Hornets. It almost happened. The Bucks trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half before coming back.

2. That comeback was helped out by the fact that Charlotte guard Kemba Walker had to exit the game with less than 2 minutes remaining after hitting his head on the floor following a turnover. The team announced that he was evaluated by a physician and did not exhibit signs of a concussion following the game and will be re-evaluated in Charlotte on Saturday.

3. The Hornets were leading Milwaukee 104-102 when Walker attempted to drive down the right side of the lane before losing the ball. He then dove for the ball and smacked his head on the ground. Bledsoe recovered the ball, pushed it up the floor, and a pass from Antetokounmpo led to a game-tying dunk from Middleton. Walker subbed out with 1:42 left on the clock, and Charlotte was out of sorts for the remainder of the game.

4. The reasoning for Charlotte looking as discombobulated as they did offensively down the stretch was in part due to the absence of Walker, their best player, but also a swarming Bucks defense. The Hornets were unable to score in the final 2:28 of the game and Milwaukee closed on a 9-0 run. After Walker exited the Hornets went 0-3 from the floor and durned the ball over once on their four possessions. Before Walker exited he had a game-high 32 points for the Hornets.

5. At that point, the game flipped and Milwaukee looked more like the team that faced the Cavaliers than the team that struggled with a Charlotte team that’s now 10 games below .500 on the season. The Bucks have struggled to play consistent basketball during the season. The win over Cleveland was one that felt like it would build momentum for the young team. Maybe it has, as this is the type of game the Bucks have struggled to come back in throughout the season.

6. Milwaukee has been consistent in the fact that when Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe, and Middleton all score 20 or more points they’re unbeaten. This win moves them to 5-0 on the season. That trio is only going to get better as they gather more on-court time together. The key to it all may be Middleton. His consistency hasn’t always been there, but he fits much better as a third option as opposed to a second scorer.

7. Offensively, the Bucks have been playing really well as of late. The victory over Charlotte marked the 14th consecutive game that they’ve scored over 100 points. That makes this the longest such streak since January 30 through March 18 of 1987 when they strung together 22 games.

8. Middleton saw a considerable amount of minutes playing center against the Hornets on Friday night as well. Hornets center Dwight Howard leaving the game after only playing the first 4:36 with a dislocated ring finger on his left hand. With the absence of Howard, the Hornets were forced to play smaller for much of the night. That meant Milwaukee’s counter was Middleton at center, as well as Antetokounmpo for stretches.

9. “We didn’t deal with it well. He went out in the first quarter and they still had the lead for the majority of the first and the second half,” said Middleton of the lineup used to combat Howard’s injury. “We just have to do a better job of playing our basketball and not playing to the level of our competition.”

10. Middleton makes a valid point about playing to the level of their competition. On Tuesday night against the Cavs they played one of their best games of the season. Friday night against Charlotte was an entirely different story. That’s something young teams often struggle with. The Bucks aren’t a typical young team, however, they have a legitimate MVP candidate in Antetokounmpo and have the ability to become a championship contender in the coming years. Slip ups in games like this happen, but it’s something the Bucks need to work to eliminate. A loss to a below average team early in the season could be looked back at later in the season as to why they’re opening a playoff series on the road as opposed to in Milwaukee.

11. “We’ve been in a lot of close games this season,” coach Jason Kidd said. “This was a tough game. [There were] a lot of emotions in that last game [against Cleveland].”

12. The Bucks have a chance to take two in a row from the Hornets on Saturday. These teams square off for the second night of a home-and-home matchup in Charlotte.

Bucks beat Pistons 104-100

The Milwaukee Bucks saw their three game winning streak snapped against the Boston Celtics on Monday night. Wednesday night they got back in the win column with a 104-100 victory over the Detroit Pistons at home.

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpko was the leading scorer for the Bucks with 25 points to go with 10 rebounds. Most nights Antetokounmpo hasn’t gotten the necessary help from teammates, but against Detroit that wasn’t the case. Guard Eric Bledsoe scored 22 points and forward Khris Middleton added in 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

The Bucks held a 60-51 lead at halftime, but squandered that in the third quarter where Detroit outscored them 25-16 to tie the game heading into the final quarter. The Pistons did have the game’s leading scorer in Andre Drummond. He had 27 points and 20 rebounds on the night.

Milwaukee jumped back out in front to start the fourth quarter thanks to a 14-1 run. Detroit staged another comeback, pulling the game as close as 97-94 following a Reggie Jackson jump-shot, but Milwaukee withstood the run and was able to hang on for the win.

The win moves Milwaukee to 13-10 on the season. The Pistons have now lost four games in a row and are 14-10 overall.

The Bucks are back in action on Friday night when the Dallas Mavericks come to Milwaukee. Tip-off is at 7PM.

Milwaukee Bucks beat Kings 112-87

The Milwaukee Bucks were able to collect their second win on the team’s current west coast road trip 112-87 over the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night. The win boosts them back above the .500 mark, at 10-9 on the season.

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 32 points on a very efficient 11-of-16 shooting from the field. This was Antetokounmpo’s eighth game of 30 or more points. Guard Eric Bledsoe chipped in 21 points in the win on seven-of-10 from the floor. Forward Khris Middleton also reached double-figures, scoring 12 points for Milwaukee.

Defensively, the Bucks were stout, holding the Kings to 40.3% shooting from the floor, including a 29.4% mark from three-point range.

Milwaukee wraps up a four-game west coast trip on Thursday night in Portland against the Trailblazers. The team will then return home for a rematch with Sacramento on Saturday in Milwaukee.

Bucks 99, Pistons 95; Last shots

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks won their fourth consecutive game Wednesday night 99-95 over the Detroit Pistons. Milwaukee was led by forward Khris Middleton with 27 points on the evening. Detroit got a strong effort from guard Avery Bradley who had a game-high 28 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have a game that he has been accustomed to this year, as he spent much of the night in foul trouble. He finished with 21 points on 8-of-16 from the floor. Guard Eric Bledsoe was scoreless in the first half, put poured in 14 second half points to help will Milwaukee to victory.

Here are 16 last shots for the 16 blocks by the Bucks:

1. In the first half, there was a stretch of five or six minutes where the Pistons fell apart. They allowed the Bucks to take the lead thanks to turnovers, blocked shots, and potentially a few missed called by officials. The Bucks took advantage, building their largest lead of the first half at 30-23.

2. During that stretch there were back-to-back possessions stretch that the Pistons looked out of sorts offensively. On the first possession they had a shot that the Pistons thought hit the rim and should have reset the shot clock before the ball went out of bounds last touched by Milwaukee guard DeAndre Liggins. It was ruled that it did not draw iron, and Detroit was forced to inbound the ball with two-tenths of a second remaining on the shot clock.

3. The following possession the Pistons attempted three shots, with the third being emphatically blocked out of bounds by Antetokounmpo. Detroit’s bench thought that the ball had already reached its apex and was on its way down. Guard Ish Smith was irate as well and picked up a technical foul. If Smith hadn’t picked up the technical foul, someone on the Pistons’ bench certainly would have earned it.

4. Eric Bledsoe is still searching to find himself back in game shape for the Bucks. While he’s still a threat anytime he steps on the floor for Milwaukee, it’s going to take some time for the team to thrive with him in the lineup. That sounds odd considering the team hasn’t lost yet while he’s been in uniform, but this group hasn’t scratched the surface of their potential.

5. After a first half where he didn’t score, Bledsoe came up big for Milwaukee in the second half. He opened the third quarter with four quick points as part of a 10-3 run to build a seven point lead for the Bucks. In the fourth quarter he hit the shot that gave Milwaukee the lead back with 42.5 seconds remaining, breaking a 93-93 tie. He was fouled on the next possession and knocked down a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to four. Bledsoe had eight points in the final period.

6. Middleton was fantastic down the stretch for Milwaukee as well. He, like Bledsoe, had eight points in the fourth quarter. While Detroit was fighting back after starting the period down 13, Middleton was able to keep the Pistons at bay at times.

7. Wednesday was the sixth time this season he’s scored 20 or more points on the season. He did so in a team high 40 minutes. He’s been an improved part of the team lately, and been much more consistent than he was at the start of the season.

8. “[I’m] just playing hard. That’s what I noticed over the first couple of games. I don’t think I was playing hard enough,” Middleton said following the win. “I talked to some coaches, my teammates, [Kevin Garnett] also came in and the common things that most of the guys were saying was that [I] needed to play harder. I think it was true. I was thinking too much about other stuff. Now, I just feel like I’m playing hard and not worrying about everything else, which has been working out.”

9. Milwaukee won the game in a fashion the Bucks haven’t shown they’ve been capable of doing so far this season, with a relatively poor performance from Antetokounmpo. He finished the night with 21 points, six rebounds, and a single assist in nearly 35 minutes. While Antetokounmpo’s line would be taken as an above average night for most NBA players, it’s below the standard he’s set for himself this season. He found himself in foul trouble for much of the night, eventually picking up his fifth foul with 3:33 left in the game. The bright side to his foul trouble was it forced head coach Jason Kidd to limit his minutes.

10. “I was trying to get his minutes down to under 35,” Kidd said. “We accomplished that together, Giannis and I. With him getting in foul trouble and me being able to take him out. We are running up his minutes a little bit too high this early in the season, so my goal was to get him under 35. He’s 22 years old. He’s going to make mistakes. Learning to stay out of foul trouble is something he has to get better at, but it ended up helping us tonight.”

11. Kidd was barely able to succeed at keeping Antetokounmpo under 35 minutes. He finished with 34 minutes and 55 seconds on the court, officially.

12. On the defensive end of the court, the Bucks did an outstanding job altering shots around the rim. They finished the night with 16 blocked shots, the highest total an NBA achieved this season. Part of that contributed to the Pistons shooting a higher percentage from behind the three-point line than inside of it.

13. Detroit was 15-of-48 inside the arc (31.2%) and 15-of-37 on three-pointers (40.5%). That’s an uncommon occurrence in the NBA, even in the three-point revolution that’s been experienced league-wide.

14. Milwaukee had two players with four blocks each, as Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker each had a huge impact around the rim. John Henson, Tony Snell, and Bledsoe all each had two apiece, and Liggins and Malcolm Brogdon had one rejection each.

15. It is worth noting that guard Matthew Dellavedova didn’t play for the Bucks with left knee tendinitis. His status is unknown moving forward.

16. The Bucks will be in action again on Saturday in Dallas against the Mavericks.

Bucks win third straight 110-103 over Memphis

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 110-103 Monday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading scorer in the game with 27 points. He also had nine rebounds and seven assists. Tyreke Evans also had 27 points for the Grizzlies.

The Bucks used a fantastic third quarter defensively to take control of the game. They outscored Memphis 26-12 in that period.

While Antetokounmpo was the leading scorer for the Bucks, he was joined by four other teammates in double-figures. Forwards Khris Middleton and John Henson both had 17 points. Newly acquired guard Eric Bledsoe scored 15 points, giving him double-figures in all three games he has played for Milwaukee. Off the bench, Malcolm Brogdon had 10 points to lead the second unit.

The win for Milwaukee is their third straight victory over a four day stretch. The team has not lost since Bledsoe made his debut after being acquired via trade with the Suns.

The Bucks are in action next on Wednesday night at home against the Detroit Pistons. Tip-off is at 7pm.

Milwaukee Bucks defeat Spurs 94-87

SAN ANTONIO — The Milwaukee Bucks snapped their four game losing streak by defeating the San Antonio Spurs 94-87 on Friday night on the road. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 28 points and 12 rebounds on the night. Spurs’ forward LaMarcus Aldridge finished the night with 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Spurs.

Guard Eric Bledsoe made his team debut for Milwaukee, scoring 13 points and totaling seven assists. He was acquired via trade with the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday but did not play in Milwaukee’s loss to Cleveland that night. Bledsoe was inserted as a starter and finished with 29 minutes on the floor. He did make his presence known in his first opportunity, knocking down a mid-range jumper with under three minutes to go to seal the game for Milwaukee.

The Bucks are in action next Saturday night at home when they host the Los Angeles Lakers. Tip-off is at 7:30PM.