MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks turned back the clock in the ‘Return to the MECCA’ game on Thursday night. Their 96-89 loss to the Boston Celtics was played at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, right across the street from their usual home, The BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Milwaukee struggled to find consistency throughout the evening, trailing by as many as 12, and holding a lead as high as seven. The loss drops the Bucks to 3-2 on the young season. Boston moves to 3-2 as well with the win.
Here are 16 last shots for the 16 playoff appearances the Bucks enjoyed while calling the MECCA home from 1968-1988.
1. Milwaukee is a young team that struggled to find a consistent flow throughout the night offensively. There are going to be plenty more nights like this one as the season rolls on. Boston did a good job of containing Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first half, limiting him to only 11 points, three rebounds, and four assists. Celtics’ forward Al Horford was able to force Antetokounmpo into some tough shots, disrupting the entire rhythm of the offense.
2. Milwaukee’s offense is at its best when it’s out in transition. There are times when the Bucks over dribble in the half court, and head coach Jason Kidd said that he thought Thursday was one of those nights. “We had some good looks, I just thought we over-dribbled,” Kidd explained. “I thought the ball just didn’t move tonight as it has in the first couple of games.”
3. Guard Malcom Brogdon agreed with what Kidd had to say about the ball movement after the game. “Just be unselfish. Just move the ball,” Brogdon answered when asked how the team can improve the ball movement. “We have to be conscious of that as the game goes on and shots stop to fall. We get stagnant. We have to know to move the ball and trust each other.”
4. After being pretty much contained in the first half, Antetokounmpo played better after the break. He totaled 17 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the second half. It was there that he looked like the same player fans saw in the first four games.
5. Antetokounmpo’s final stat line for the night was 28 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He’s had a double-double in all five games so far on the season. He’s also been Milwaukee’s leading scorer in each contest. Antetokounmpo also had three steals and a block on the night.
6. Brogdon returned to action after missing the team’s win over Charlotte on Monday night. He didn’t look bothered at all by his ankle injury that kept him out of that game. Brogdon finished with 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists. He played nearly 36 minutes, second to only Antetokounmpo, who was on the court for 41 minutes Thursday evening.
7. Forward Khris Middleton also had 15 points for Milwaukee, however he was rather inefficient, needing 16 shots to reach that mark. Middleton was 7 of 16 from the floor and only 1 of 3 from behind the arc. He needs to become more consistent shooting the basketball if the Bucks are going to be successful on the offensive end, especially when they struggle to break out into transition.
8. While it can be easy to pick on Middleton’s inconsistent shooting, Milwaukee did have a good night from the outside. The Bucks finished 11-25 from deep, which is a mark that they need to be around more often. If this team can knock down those shots, it gives Antetokounmpo much more room to operate near the basket.
9. A big reason that Boston was able to pull out the win over Milwaukee was the play of Horford. He was outstanding on the offensive end, and did a solid job defending Antetokounmpo. “Horford can move his feet,” Kidd said. “You’ve got to give him credit. They packed the paint and made it extremely tough on Giannis [Antetokounmpo].”
10. Offensively, Horford finished with a team-high 27 points to go along with nine rebounds and four assists. He shot 11 of 14 from the floor, including 4 of 5 from behind the arc. Horford knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter that seemed to be the turning point in the game.
11. “Yeah, I really have to give all the credit to [Boston guard] Marcus Smart on that,” Horford said about his 3-pointers. “He just sees the game in ways that a lot of times we don’t even see it. He recognized that my guy was kind of falling asleep on the weak side. [Smart] got me open there for back-to-back threes and I felt like that was a big turning point in the game.”
12. The second biggest reason that Boston was able to win was the play of guard Kyrie Irving. He finished with 24 points on 10 of 18 shooting, including some incredible maneuvers to the hoop and finishes. Irving is without question one of the best ball-handlers in the NBA, and likely the best below-the-rim finisher in the league today, if not ever. He also had a team-high seven assists.
13. Irving did make news earlier in the day at shoot-around when he made it seem as if he thought the game being played at the MECCA was being played on the original floor from back in the 1970s and 1980s. He caught plenty of grief for that on social media, and deservedly so. While Irving was warming up with about 45 minutes until game time, fans could be heard yelling his way, asking if he was alright out there on the court.
14. Even though he was worried about it beforehand, he did have good things to say following the game. “It was great to see the intimacy of those seats out there as well as the fans kind of being right on top of us,” Irving said. “I enjoy environments like that. It was definitely great to be out there on that floor.”
15. The two teams have already met twice in the first five games of the season, each winning on the road. Obviously, matchups in October shouldn’t be overly looked into, seeing as how much can change between now and the start of the playoffs in April. That being said, a 7-game series between these two teams would be fun for everybody involved.
16. The Bucks will be in action next on Sunday in Atlanta taking on the Hawks (1-4). They return to the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Halloween to face reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.