Last shots: Celtics 112, Bucks 96

Twenty-three last shots for the 23 points scored by guard Eric Bledsoe in Milwaukee’s 112-96 loss in Game 7 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the Boston Celtics.

1. This was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Milwaukee Bucks. There’s no other way to put it.

2. The Bucks had aspirations of battling for homecourt advantage in the first round and making a run as deep as the Eastern Conference Finals. Instead, their season ends with a Game 7 loss in the first round to the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics.

3. Make no mistake, the Celtics aren’t one of the typical powerhouse No. 2 seed. Sure, they won 55 games this year, but once the playoffs rolled around Boston was without several key players. Kyrie Irving and Daniel Theis both missed the entire series, Marcus Smart missed the first four games, Jaylen Brown missed the second half of Game 7, and Gordon Heyward missed the entire season.

4. The Celtics still found a way to beat the Bucks four times despite Milwaukee being the team at full-strength.

5. No. 7 seeds aren’t typically expected to advance in the NBA Playoffs. This one was.

6. In a game that could have been an early career-defining moment for all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, it wasn’t. He wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t the performance needed from a player knocking on the door of the NBA’s elite.

7. Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and four turnovers. He was far from spectacular. Antetokounmpo wasn’t the best player on the floor, and the Bucks cannot win when that’s the case. Khris Middleton, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and arguably Eric Bledsoe were better than him.

8. Middleton continued his strong play, finishing with a game-high 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He had an incredible series and was certainly Milwaukee’s most consistent player. Bledsoe also saved his best game of the series – by far – for Game 7. He had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the loss.

9. Even with Bledsoe playing well, he was still outplayed by Rozier, who finished with a playoff-career-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and nine assists. Horford also had 26 points for Boston on 13-of-17 shooting.

10. The Bucks needed an effort from Antetokounmpo similar to the one they received in Game 6. On that night Antetokounmpo was undoubtedly the best player on the floor. He was the reason that the Bucks were able to force a Game 7, he was also part of the reason that Milwaukee’s season is now over.

11. Milwaukee now enters an offseason filled with uncertainty. The Bucks do not have a head coach, as it’s extremely unlikely that interim coach Joe Prunty will be retained to lead the team, and they’ll have to make a decision on Jabari Parker’s future.

12. Prunty will likely be given an opportunity to interview for the job opening, but the Bucks would be foolish to retain him moving forward. This job, due to the opportunity to coach Antetokounmpo, will be one of the more sought-after positions in the NBA for this coaching cycle.

13. That’s not to say Milwaukee will be able to pick any coach out there. With the Bucks lasting two weeks into the playoffs, every other team with a coaching vacancy has a head start on the search. For instance, the New York Knicks have reportedly interviewed 10 candidates already. Hiring the right coach will certainly help the Bucks move closer to owning the future that has been talked about so often. But that alone will not do it. There have been poor personnel decisions that have factored into the Bucks struggling, not just the coaching of Prunty and Jason Kidd before him.

14. Milwaukee has nearly $50 million tied up next season between Eric Bledsoe, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell, and Mirza Teletovic. Add in the dead money the team has from the Larry Sanders and Spencer Hawes situations and that number is over $50 million.

15. This is all before factoring in the Parker situation. He now enters restricted free agency after turning down Milwaukee’s contract extension offer prior to the season.

16. At times, Parker has been a very productive player for Milwaukee. Those times haven’t been frequent enough, and frankly, there are too many deficiencies in his game for him to be a max-level player. Add in his injured plagued history and he’s not a player that can be counted on with that type of financial commitment.

17. The likely scenario is that Parker will be given an offer sheet by another team and the Bucks will have an opportunity to match it. Matching it may push the Bucks further into financial distress as they wait for the contracts handed out to Henson, Dellavedova, and Snell to run out.

18. Not matching it would mean letting a talented player walk out the door with no compensation while the team is attempting to enter a window of contention.

19. The other question the Bucks need to ask this offseason is how serious the future is they’re trying to own. Yes, Antetokounmpo’s future is bright, and yes, Middleton is a very underrated player alongside him.

20. With that being said, where do the Bucks sit in the pecking order of the Eastern Conference? There’s uncertainty surrounding Cleveland with the future of LeBron James, yes. But the Celtics just knocked the Bucks off without their two best players, the Philadelphia 76ers are currently better than the Bucks — despite being younger – and are only going to be getting better while maintaining financial flexibility, and the Toronto Raptors do not look like they’re going anywhere soon, either.

21. And that’s only the Eastern Conference.

22. It’s hard to call this season anything but a failure for Milwaukee. And no matter what Antetokounmpo says about his future in Milwaukee, the clock is ticking for the Bucks.

23. Right now, it’s certainly difficult to see the Bucks owning the future.

Last shots: Bucks 116, Celtics 92

MILWAUKEE – Twenty-four last shots for the 24 minutes played by Bucks center Thon Maker in Milwaukee’s 116-92 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

1. The widely used cliché around the NBA is that role players preform at a higher level when they play at home, especially in the playoffs.

2. That could not have been more accurate on Friday night for the Milwaukee Bucks. Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, Jabari Parker, and Eric Bledsoe looked like entirely different players inside the friendly confines of the BMO Harris Bradley Center than they did inside the TD Garden.

3. Dellavedova and Maker combined for 5:34 of time on the floor in the first two games of the series. Both players did not leave the bench in Game 1. Dellavedova saw 4:34 in Game 2, with 3:34 coming while the outcome was still in doubt. Maker checked in during Game 2 with 1:00 left on the clock and the Celtics holding a 118-104 lead.

4. On Friday night, those two were two of the first three players off the bench for Milwaukee with Parker being the other. All three had positive impacts that they had not had in Boston.

5. In fact, Parker complained to the media that he didn’t feel he was getting enough playing time in the first two games. He had played just under 25 minutes in those two games combined. Friday he was on the floor for 30. Parker had been unable to find a rhythm offensively and was a liability defensively in Boston.

6. In Milwaukee, Parker was a force offensively and serviceable defensively. He finished with 17 points on 7-of-12 from the floor. He also collected five rebounds, a pair of assists, a steal, and two blocks. It’s only been three games, but this was by far the best performance of his playoff career.

7. The effort Parker gave the Bucks in the win was one that Milwaukee needs him to replicate in order to climb back, and ultimately win the series. The Bucks won’t be able to count on the stat line Maker produced, but they should be able to count on Parkers.

8. Maker finished with 14 points on 3-of-5 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. He was a force defensively, blocking five shots, and altering a handful of others. Maker has largely been a disappointment this season, but Friday night was a glimpse into the player Milwaukee believes he can be.

9. One person that has always believed in Maker has been all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. There have been times where Antetokounmpo has drawn criticism from fans for his belief in Maker despite his struggles.

10. “It means a lot,” Antetokounmpo said of Maker’s big game. “Thon for me is like a little brother. We had a conversation earlier – two weeks ago – and I told him that he has to bring that killer mentality back. [Maker] was hungry and tonight he showed that he wants it. He did a great job coming in and gave everybody energy. He blocked shots, he made shots, running beating guys. I am proud of him. Hopefully he can bring it all into Game 4 because we definitely need this guy.”

11. And to think, if not for center John Henson’s back injury, Maker likely would not have seen nearly this much meaningful action. Henson was inactive, forcing Tyler Zeller into the starting lineup, and Maker into the rotation.

12. “Tonight specifically, it was not only the blocks and energy, but he hit some big shots,” interim coach Joe Prunty said of Maker following the game. “He had a big three from the right wing and made a lot of plays on both sides of the ball that are critical to winning the game.”

13. As for Dellavedova, his stat line was nothing out of the ordinary. He knocked down both shots he attempted, finishing with five points in 16 minutes. What he was able to provide to the Bucks was an annoyance to Celtics guard Terry Rozier. Rozier had torched the Bucks in both games in Boston but was quiet in Game 3.

14. That’s what Dellavedova’s game is. He’s not going to go out and score 15 or more points for the Bucks very often, but he is going to be someone that can bother opposing backcourts with his pestering defense. He routine would defend Rozier for all 94 feet of the court, making him earn everything he got.

15. “I’ve been riding the bike for two months, so I can pick up full court for as long as they need me to,” Dellavedova said. He had missed nearly the last two months of the season due to an ankle injury, playing in only the final regular season game before the playoffs.

16. Dellavedova was a big boost to the back court for the Bucks, but Bledsoe’s play was also something that Milwaukee had not had in the first two games. In Boston he was inefficient, careless with the basketball, and outplayed by a backup whom he refused to acknowledge.

17. Friday night he was the player Milwaukee had hoped to see on a nightly basis when the trade was made for him early in the season. He had 17 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting from the floor. For the first time in the series, he outplayed Rozier.

18. In the second quarter Bledsoe scored in transition with Rozier the lone player back defending to put Milwaukee up by 21. Bledsoe flexed and smacked his biceps muscle on his way back down the floor. Make no mistake, he won’t acknowledge who Rozier is publicly, but he knew exactly who he had scored on. There’s no doubt about that.

19. The first two games saw the offensive load carried by Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton for Milwaukee. They were the two leading scorers for Milwaukee once again, but they certainly didn’t need to do as much this time around.

20. Middleton was the game’s high scorer with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Antetokounmpo had 19 points on 8-of-13 from the floor in only 27 minutes.

21. The low total of minutes for Antetokounmpo could come as a benefit for the Bucks on Sunday. Even with a day off between games, the turnaround is rather short between Games 3 and 4. The 8:30 p.m. CT start on Friday paired with a noon CT start on Sunday means that this set of games will have less time between contests than most in the playoffs.

22. Antetokounmpo checked out after picking up his fifth foul with 10:22 remaining in the game and the Bucks holding a 90-70 lead. He never needed to re-enter, making that foul call by official Scott Foster a blessing in disguise for the Bucks.

23. “We realized how important this game was,” Antetokounmpo said afterwards. “I think everyone brought their ‘A’ game, they brought their energy. Game 2 we didn’t do a good job rebounding the ball or taking care of the ball. I think we did a great job of doing that [tonight]. It takes effort to rebound so I think everybody brought effort and hopefully we can carry that on to Game 4.”

24. Game 4 is Sunday at noon CT at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Friday night’s win ensured that the series will head back to Boston for a Game 5 at the very least. A win on Sunday would force a Game 6 at the Bradley Center. A loss in Game 4 could potentially mean the Bucks will never play inside the building again. Talk to you then.

Last shots: Celtics 120, Bucks 106

Nineteen last shots for the 19 minutes played by Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon in Milwaukee’s 120-106 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

1. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go this year for the Milwaukee Bucks, but it’s shaping up to be an all too familiar ending.

2. Disappointment.

3. The Bucks wanted a first round matchup with the Boston Celtics. So too did the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards. The three teams that finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture were hoping to matchup with the injury-riddled Celtics because it would give the best chance to advance to the next round of the playoffs, even as the No. 7 seed.

4. Those three teams, the Bucks included, were supposed to have the edge over the Celtics. They were supposed to be able to out-talent Boston while Kyrie Irving, Gordon Heyward, and Marcus Smart were all shelved due to injury.

5. On paper, Milwaukee has a talent advantage. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in the series, and has played as such through the first two games. Khris Middleton has played as well as expected, if not better. They haven’t been the problem.

6. Jabari Parker has been largely unplayable in the first two games of this series. That’s a big issue. On Tuesday night he finished without scoring in 10 minutes and only took two shots. The past two games certainly will not be on the highlight tape Parker wishes for teams to see as he hits restricted free agency this summer.

7. Eric Bledsoe had another rough game. After playing poorly to the tune of nine points on 4-of-12 shooting on Sunday afternoon, he followed it up with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting Tuesday. In both games he’s been thoroughly outplayed by Celtics backup point guard Terry Rozier. The case can be made that Bledsoe was outplayed by Boston’s Shane Larkin on Tuesday night as well.

8. Larkin, who is on his fourth team in five years and spent the 2016-17 season overseas, averaged less than 15 minutes per game in 54 games this year. He and Rozier on contracts for less than $4 million this year combined, while Bledsoe made $15 million.

9. To compound things after the game, when Bledsoe was asked by a reporter if he was taking the success of Rozier personally. A very fair question considering Rozier’s success and Bledsoe’s struggles.

10. “Who?” Bledsoe questioned the reporter. The reporter restated Rozier’s name.

11. “I don’t know who the f*** that is,” Bledsoe responded.

12. That’s not a great look to not respect the 23-year-old that has been the much better player the past two games. It’s even worse when the fact that Bledsoe was unable to stay within 10 feet of Rozier in the final seconds of regulation in Game 1, watching from a distance as Rozier nailed a wide-open 3-pointer to put the Celtics up by three. Bledsoe was lucky that Middleton’s game-saving shot saved him some embarrassment.

13. Bledsoe’s poor play highlights a saying that’s rampant at times across basketball. Never trust the Bucks.

14. Many picked Milwaukee to win the series due to the Celtics injury issues and the talent advantage the Bucks hold. Everyone that did trusted the Bucks, which looks like a giant mistake two games in.

15. Obviously, the series isn’t over, and the Bucks will have an opportunity to return serve on their homecourt and send things back to Boston. Role players, which the Celtics are mostly comprised of at this point, typically play better at home than on the road.

16. Making this a long series isn’t something that’s out of the realm of possibility. But after the past few nights, it’s difficult to be confident in Milwaukee’s ability to do so. In the long history of the Celtics they have never lost a series in which they held a 2-0 lead. What about the performance of the Bucks in Game 2 should give any confidence that this will be the first time?

17. It’s hard to find an answer to that question. Antetokounmpo has been the best player in the series, sure, and Middleton’s play above his regular season level has been encouraging. But the Bucks can’t win without one of Parker or Bledsoe stepping up, and after the first two games it’s hard to have confidence in that happening.

18. Then again, role players tend to play better at home.

19. The Bucks take on the Celtics in Game 3 on Friday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. CT. Talk to you then.

Last shots: Celtics 113, Bucks 107 (OT)

Eighteen last shots for the 18 minutes played by Bucks guard Jason Terry in Milwaukee’s 113-107 overtime loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the first round.

1. This is a loss that stings right now for the Bucks, as every playoff loss will. It was a game they led at halftime, and during parts of overtime. Playoff wins are tough to earn and heading into Game 2 assured of no worse than a split in Boston would have been big for the psyche of this team.

2. In the fourth quarter the Bucks locked down on the defensive end, only to see the Celtics bail themselves out with offensive rebounds or a make on an incredibly difficult shot by Marcus Morris or Terry Rozier.

3. It’s tough to swallow, but it happens.

4. The Bucks have more talent than this version of the Boston Celtics. That was evident on Sunday afternoon. Also evident was the fact that the Celtics play smarter and more together than the Bucks, and that’s a battle that’s not close.

5. Boston, purely from a talent standpoint, isn’t at the same level as the Bucks are. With star guards Kyrie Irving and Gordon Heyward unavailable due to injury the Celtics don’t have a player close to the level of Antetokounmpo. Al Horford is a terrific basketball player, and no discredit to him, but he’s not at the level of Antetokounmpo.

6. On the flip-side, Milwaukee, purely from a schematic standpoint, isn’t at the same level as the Celtics, and that’s a problem for them.

7. Inside the game itself, the Bucks outplayed the Celtics down the stretch. The defense was stifling, big shots were made by a cast of players, and even mistakes were overcome.

8. In the fourth quarter the Bucks outscored Boston 33-29 to tie things up, and the Celtics had to work for every point they earned. The Celtics were able to secure four offensive rebounds, turning them into eight second chance points.

9. Aside from those hustle stats, the Celtics nailed tough shots near the end of the shot-clock. Sometimes, there’s nothing more that can be done except for tipping your cap and moving on. There were a few of those instances down the stretch.

10. Rozier and Morris both came up huge, and they were big reasons as to why the Celtics won Game 1. That pair combined for 41 points. On the bright side for Milwaukee that’s something that isn’t likely sustainable for the Celtics. Rozier hit plenty of big shots down the stretch for the Celtics, including a 3-pointer to give Boston the lead with 0.5 seconds remaining in regulation.

11. For the Bucks, Middleton was huge. He finished with 31 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and a huge game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation to send the game to overtime. Middleton barely beat the clock, but his shot was pure as could be.

12. Middleton’s shot came 10 seconds after Brogdon knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 96. On the following possession Rozier was being guarded by Bledsoe, shook free of him, and knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 99-96 lead. After that, Middleton hit his shot to send things to overtime.

13. As for Antetokounmpo, he was almost everything the Bucks needed to go on the road and steal Game 1. He finished with 35 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists before fouling out in overtime.

14. Fouling out was the issue, once Antetokounmpo was called for his fifth foul his demeanor changed. The constant attack on the rim ceased, as it seemed he was worried about a premature exit from the game by virtue of an offensive foul. It was a legitimate worry of his, as his fourth foul of the game was a charge with 1:33 left in regulation.

15. While Middleton and Antetokounmpo were mostly good, combining for 66 points, Bledsoe largely was not. The veteran with playoff experience seemed as if the stage was too big for him. He finished with nine points on 4-for-12 shooting, had five turnovers, and fouled out in overtime as well.

16. Bledsoe, simply put, needs to be better than he was on Sunday for the Bucks to win the series. If Rozier, Shane Larkin, and other members of the Celtics backcourt are outplaying him – by a wide margin – things are going to turn out poorly for the Bucks.

17. It’s easy to look at this loss as a bad sign. Digging out of a 0-1 hole isn’t the easiest task, but it’s not the most difficult, either. Boston was supposed to win on its home floor. If the Bucks return to Milwaukee with one victory in their pocket – regardless of how it’s earned – things will be looking up for them.

18. Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Boston at the TD Garden. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT.

Milwaukee Bucks defeat Magic 102-86

For the second consecutive game the Milwaukee Bucks were forced to play without all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. For the second straight game the Bucks found a way to win without him. Shabazz Muhammad scored 22 points off the bench and guard Eric Bledsoe scored 20 points in the 102-86 win over the Magic Monday night.

Milwaukee struggled to gain separation from the Magic until the end of the third quarter, and finally was able to pull away in the fourth.

Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker also reached double-figures in scoring with 18 and 16 points, respectively.

This marked the last time that Milwaukee will ever play a regular season game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, with a new arena set to open next season.

The win moves the Bucks temporarily into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with one game remaining in the regular season. Milwaukee plays Philadelphia on Wednesday night on the road, where a win would clinch the No. 6 seed in the playoffs and means the Bucks would retain their first round draft pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Last shots: Bucks 106, Spurs 103

MILWAUKEE | Eighteen last shots for the 18 free throws attempted by Milwaukee in its 106-103 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon.

1. The team that wore the cream-colored jerseys Sunday afternoon at the BMO Harris Bradley Center was the incarnation of the Milwaukee Bucks that many expected to see this season.

2. To this point, it’s fair to say that the Bucks have underachieved. Milwaukee is in a battle with the Miami Heat for the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Many thought that this season the Bucks would be competing for home court advantage in the first round, but that ship has all but sailed. Milwaukee trails fourth-place Philadelphia by three-and-a-half games with nine games remaining. While that dream isn’t officially dead, it’s on life support, and not looking good.

3. On Sunday the Bucks fired on all cylinders as they held off a late surge by the San Antonio Spurs to cap off a much-needed victory. The Bucks entered the game losers of three of the last five contests, and had not been playing well, even in the victories against Chicago and Atlanta, two of the NBA’s bottom-feeder teams this season.

4. Sunday was the opposite of many things that had plagued the Bucks recently. Milwaukee got off to a fast start, building a 13-point first quarter lead. As of late, the Bucks have struggled to start games. Milwaukee trailed by double-digits in each of the past two games in the first quarter. It’s a trend that had not been going Milwaukee’s way for quite some time.

5. Milwaukee led 27-15 after the first quarter before allowing the Spurs to storm back in the second quarter to head into halftime tied at 47. San Antonio settled down after an abysmal shooting performance in the opening period. It was bound to happen, after all, the Spurs are perpetually a contender for a reason.

6. The third quarter was similar to the first, with the Bucks outscoring San Antonio 41-28 to take a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter. Eric Bledsoe was outstanding in the third for the Bucks. He had 11 of his 23 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the quarter. Bledsoe has been one of the most explosive players on the court for much of the season, but it hasn’t always translated to positive outcomes. With that being said, on Sunday it did.

7. The fourth quarter saw the Bucks have to hold off the Spurs. No one would have expected San Antonio to go away quietly, and they didn’t. The Spurs were down by 15 points with 8:02 left in the game, but closed things out on a 22-10 run, it just wasn’t enough. The Spurs had an opportunity to tie the game as time expired, but Khris Middleton got a piece of Dejonte Murray’s 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left.

8. All-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was able to play at less than 100 percent after he suffered a sprained right ankle on Wednesday night against the Clippers. He missed Friday’s game in Chicago but felt strong enough to play on Sunday.

9. “It felt good. It’s not 100 percent, but I felt like I could still help my teammates, and that’s what I did tonight,” Antetokounmpo said after the game. “Hopefully moving forward I can feel a lot better.”

10. Antetokounmpo finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists in the win. He was 9-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. When Antetokounmpo is knocking down 3s, he’s unstoppable. The problem with that is he’s a 29.5 percent shooter from deep.

11. Milwaukee will need to continue to get team efforts like this one down the stretch of the season as they fight for playoff positioning. The best-case scenario for the Bucks would be to land as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Raptors will likely finish with the best record in the conference and the Boston Celtics will finish second.

12. The Raptors have been the best team in the conference all year, and a team that would be hard for the Bucks to matchup with. The Boston Celtics are an entirely different story, however. Celtics guard Kyrie Irving underwent a knee procedure on Saturday, leaving his availability for the start of the playoffs in doubt. He’s expected to return to basketball activity in three-to-six weeks according to the team. The first round of the playoffs begins on April 14th.

13. If Irving were to be healthy, things would be very difficult in the series for Milwaukee. Taking away Boston’s best player for all, or some of the series, would improve Milwaukee’s chances exponentially. That becomes a winnable series for the Bucks if Irving is absent. If Kyrie is 100 percent healthy and playing, things look rather bleak for Milwaukee. While he very well may play in that series, he’s unlikely to be 100 percent.

14. Milwaukee’s win combined with Miami’s overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers pushed the Bucks into the No. 7 seed for the time being. They lead Miami by a half-game with nine games left to play. The Bucks do need to finish a full game ahead of the Heat to secure that place in the conference due to Miami holding the tiebreaker over Milwaukee by virtue of sweeping the season series 3-0.

15. Milwaukee now heads out west for a four-game road trip beginning with the LA Clippers on Tuesday night. They’ll then head to Oakland for a matchup with the Warriors before returning to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and finishing up the trip with a date with Denver on April 1st.

16. This will be a very tough trip for Milwaukee, finishing it 2-2 would be considered a success. The Clippers just ran the Bucks off the floor in Milwaukee but are comparable to the Bucks in terms of talent. The game against the Warriors is much more winnable after two-time MVP Stephen Curry sprained the MCL in his left knee this week. He will not play against the Bucks, and the status for all-stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson is unknown.

17. Again, things will be tough out west, but if the Bucks team that showed up on Sunday makes the trip, then success is possible. If that’s not the case, Milwaukee will struggle.

18. Tip-off against the Clippers is set for 9 p.m. CT on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Last shots: Bucks 122, Hawks 117

MILWAUKEE | Twenty-three last shots for the 23 points scored by Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton in the 122-117 win over Atlanta on Saturday night.

1. The Bucks played one of the easiest portions of their schedule beginning the day that coach Jason Kidd was fired. After that, the easiest period of their schedule was the four-game stretch they just completed with a 3-1 record. Memphis, Orlando, and Atlanta are three of the four worst teams in the NBA, and the Bucks just faced them in succession.

2. The Bucks went 2-1 against those teams, although they weren’t overly impressive in any of the victories. Milwaukee found itself in a battle late in the fourth quarter against Atlanta on Saturday evening. The Hawks led early on by as many as 11 points in the first half before the Bucks took a 56-50 lead into the locker room at halftime.

3. The starting five was an issue again for Milwaukee, as it has been lately. Atlanta led 31-26 after the first quarter. The Bucks struggled offensively in the period. The only area they were successful was from the 3-point line, where they knocked down four 3s.

4. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in that first quarter. The Hawks were adamant about letting him shoot from behind the arc.

5. After the first quarter Antetokounmpo took four more 3-pointers, missing all of them. He finished with a team-high 33 points on 12-of-25 shooting. Antetokounmpo added in 12 rebounds, seven assists, and four steals as well.

6. The starting group was outscored in the first quarter against Memphis and got off to a poor start again on Saturday.

7. “We want to start games and halves the right way,” interim head coach Joe Prunty said about his starting lineup prior to the game. “We want to play the right way coming out of the gate to make sure that that carries over through the first half, and then when you come out to start the second half, you want that as well. So, it is very important, and we do need our starters to step up. We have had too many stretches where we have had these lulls on both sides of the floor, and teams as going on big runs.”

8. That’s something that needs to change for the Bucks. They’re able to escape and come back against teams like Memphis, New York, and Atlanta when they don’t play their best. The Bucks don’t have enough to dig themselves out of a big hole against playoff teams.

9. The Bucks also need to be better at not allowing teams back into games. Atlanta was trailing by 13 points after Khris Middleton knocked down a 3-pointer with :36 remaining in the period. That shot gave Middleton an impressive 15 points in the quarter, prompted a timeout by Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, and should have been a back-breaker for the Hawks.

10. Instead of that being the case, Milwaukee allowed Atlanta to close the period on a 5-0 run. Andrew White III knocked down a 3-pointer, Eric Bledsoe had a careless turnover, and White III put in a layup before the clock expired. The Bucks found themselves without any of the momentum that they had earned, and a lead of only eight entering the fourth quarter.

11. Bledsoe’s turnover was an attempt at a pass | to himself | off of the backboard. He got caught in the air after attempting to draw a foul, had nowhere else to go with the ball, and that was the result.

12. Things didn’t immediately get better, as the Hawks were able to climb all the way back and take a one-point lead with 4:39 left in the game on a pair of Taurean Prince free throws. He was the game’s high scorer with 38 points for Atlanta.

13. The Hawks got back into the game partly due to a five-point possession made possible by a flagrant foul by Antetokounmpo. Atlanta forward John Collins shot a 3-pointer from the right corner with Antetokounmpo closing out on him. Antetokounmpo did not give Collins the necessary room to land following the shot.

14. The rule is one that was implemented this season. In the playoffs last year Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard was injured by Zaza Pachulia of the Golden State Warriors when Pachulia closed out on a jumper that Leonard was shooting.

15. Pachulia did not allow Leonard the proper room to land following his shot. Leonard landed directly on the foot of Pachulia, spraining his ankle, and ending his postseason. The play was called dirty, and further increased the narrative that Pachulia is a dirty player.

16. After the game, Antetokounmpo said he didn’t intentionally hurt Collins, who left the game and did not return with a sprained left ankle.

17. “I tried to close out, and not to touch,” Antetokounmpo said. “I gave [John Collins] a little bit of space because we wanted him to shoot that shot. He landed on my foot. They say the code now when someone lands on your foot is a flagrant [foul]. I didn’t do it on purpose. I hope he’s doing well and that he’s healthy.”

18. After the game, Collins said he didn’t think his injury was too serious.

19. “Obviously, I landed on his foot, but I don’t think he was intentionally trying to run up under me,” Collins said. “He was just closing out. I thought when I shot the ball I jumped into the line a little bit. It was a basketball play.”

20. Milwaukee now enters a tougher portion of its schedule, and its one they must step up for in order to avoid a bottom two seed in the conference. Five of the next six games for Milwaukee come against teams that are either in the playoffs or fighting for a spot.

21. The Bucks also have to go out to the west coast for a four-game road trip to close the month.

22. On that road trip two of the games are against teams fighting for a playoff spot in the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets, one is against the Golden State Warriors, and the final one is against the Los Angeles Lakers.

23. Before they worry about that, Milwaukee returns to action Monday night in Cleveland against the Cavaliers.

Bucks beat Memphis 121-103

Brandon Jennings had not played for the Milwaukee Bucks since April 28, 2013 when the Bucks lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. His first game in a Milwaukee uniform since then was better than anyone could have expected.

Jennings helped the Bucks defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 121-103 on the road Monday night. Jennings, in his first NBA game of the season, flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 16 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds.

He played 24 minutes, which was more than expected. This was partly due to the foul trouble that both guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo found themselves in. They both finished with five fouls in less than 30 minutes on the court. Antetokounmpo had 20 points on the evening, and Bledsoe had 14.

Khris Middleton led the way for Milwaukee in scoring. He had 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. In total, the Bucks had seven players reach double-figures in scoring.

The win moved Milwaukee into seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, shifting ahead of the Miami Heat.

The Bucks are back in action on Wednesday night in Orlando against the Magic.

Last shots: Pelicans 123, Bucks 121 (OT)

MILWAUKEE – Seventeen last shots for the 17-point halftime lead blown by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 123-121 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday afternoon.

1. The Milwaukee Bucks played terrific basketball in the first half against the Pelicans. They shot nearly 50 percent from the field, held the Pelicans below 50 points, and held a 17-point lead at halftime. Anthony Davis was the only issue the Bucks had in the first half. He had 19 points and seven rebounds at the break, but Milwaukee was able to keep his teammates in check.

2. The second half was an entirely different story. The lead that Milwaukee built in the first half evaporated in the first 6:29 of the third quarter. The Pelicans opened up on a 26-9 run to tie the game at 75. From that point on, neither team led by more than four.

3. “We didn’t come out with the right mindset,” forward Khris Middleton said of the team’s third quarter. “The first half we were running it down their throats, getting stops, sprinting back on defense. Then in that third quarter we didn’t do anything. We let them right back in the game instead of just going right at their throat and ending it right there.”

4. The third quarter, as mentioned, was disastrous for the Bucks. They were outscored 38-19 in the period, despite holding Davis to only two points. Jrue Holiday did most of the damage for New Orleans. He had 15 points and six rebounds in that quarter alone. Holiday finished the game with 36 points, with 24 of them coming after halftime.

5. The Bucks lacked killer instinct for the second consecutive game. Milwaukee led by double-digits in the second half in its win against Toronto before the Raptors fought back to force overtime. In that instance, the Bucks were able to overcome the blown led, regroup, and scratch out a win in overtime.

6. The Bucks showed resiliency once again on Sunday, it just wasn’t enough. The team certainly could have folded once the Pelicans led, but continued to fight until the final buzzer.

7. That final buzzer came with the Bucks trailing 123-121 in overtime. It also came just before the ball left the fingertips of Jason Terry on a shot that would have given the win to Milwaukee. The shot was called late on the floor and quickly confirmed by officials via review.

8. The ball squirted to Terry in the left corner after forward Giannis Antetokounmpo missed a jump shot from the right baseline that would have tied the game. The Bucks had the ball with 10.9 seconds remaining after a New Orleans turnover. Milwaukee put the ball in Antetokounmpo received the ball at the right elbow and drove towards the baseline for a pullup jumper that clanked off the rim before being tapped to the corner. Terry was a couple tenths of a second late releasing the ball.

9. “We’ve done this play in practice a lot of times, we work on it basically every day at the end,” Antetokounmpo said about the final possession. “It was just me getting the catch at the elbow and trying to go fast and create a shot. I think I got a great shot off, my defender was back and I was able to create some space, but just did not go in.”

10. Antetokounmpo finished with 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting. Middleton was the leading scorer for the Bucks with 25 points, and Eric Bledsoe matched Antetokounmpo with 20 points.

11. It was an encouraging sign to see forward Jabari Parker continue to increase his minutes on the court. He finished with just over 24 minutes against the Pelicans. He scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting.

12. “I thought he played well,” interim head coach Joe Prunty said following the game. “I’ve liked what I’ve seen with him from the time he came back until now. He’s continued to progress in the right direction. He’s had moments within games where maybe the play hasn’t been right, but that’s part of it. That’s what you would expect. This was a good effort. [We’re] always looking at it from a team perspective, but for him I thought [it was] a good effort tonight.”

13. Offensively, he looked terrific, but there were times on the defensive end where it looked as if Parker was unable to keep up with what the Pelicans were doing. The lone blemish on his offensive output was when he challenged Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo at the rim and was sent packing.

14. The Pelicans play a brand of basketball that the Bucks aren’t used to seeing. Since New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his left Achilles tendon on January 26, the Pelicans have played the fastest pace of any team in the league, averaging over 105 possessions per game. The second fastest team since January 26 is the LA Clippers, averaging 103 possessions per game. In that same stretch the Bucks have been on the opposite end of that spectrum, averaging 98 possessions per game, which is 27th in the NBA.

15. At times on Sunday the Pelicans offense looked reminiscent of the mid-to-late 2000s ‘Seven-Seconds-or-Less’ Phoenix Suns led by two-time MVP Steve Nash. The object of that offense was to move the ball as quickly as possible and act as if the shot clock was only seven seconds long. Many possessions, especially in the first half, saw the Pelicans into their offense less than three seconds after the Bucks had either made or missed a shot.

16. The Bucks are now 2-2 on the season in overtime games, the Pelicans are 7-2 in such contests. This was the second consecutive overtime game for each team.

17. The Milwaukee Bucks will return to action at home on Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards.

Milwaukee Bucks defeat Hawks 97-92

The Milwaukee Bucks took care of business against another losing team on Tuesday night. They defeated the Atlanta Hawks 97-92 in the team’s return home following a four game road trip.

Forward Khris Middleton was the game’s high-scorer with 21 points, and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo added in 15 points and 15 rebounds as well. Antetokounmpo started off slowly, but had a strong finish as he sparked an 8-0 run after the Hawks tied the game with 3:30 left.

Eric Bledsoe had 14 points for the Bucks and newly acquired Tyler Zeller scored 14 points to pace the Bucks off the bench.

Atlanta, one of the NBA’s worst teams, was led by Dennis Schroder with 18 points in the loss. The Hawks have now lost three of their last four games on their journey towards the NBA Draft lottery.

Since interim head coach Joe Prunty took over the Bucks they’ve gone 9-2, including an 8-0 record against teams with losing records. Milwaukee is a pair of games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Bucks have one game remaining prior to the All-Star break against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night at home.