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: Bucks 120, Knicks 112

Milwaukee – Fourteen last shots for the 14 free throws attempted by Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee’s 120-112 win over New York on Friday night.

1. All wins are good wins. Let’s put that out first and foremost. There’s no such thing as a bad win in the NBA.

2. With that being said, there are certainly better wins than this one. The Bucks used a terrific fourth quarter to jump in front of the Knicks on Friday night. Before the final period, however, things weren’t great for the Bucks.

3. Entering the fourth, Milwaukee led New York 91-89. They opened up the period on a 21-7 run to take command of the game at 112-96. New York fought back to cut the deficit as close as eight with 1:05 remaining.

4. This is the type of game that Milwaukee has had no trouble winning since interim head coach Joe Prunty took over the team in late January. The Bucks are 9-1 against teams that currently have losing records in that time. It’s the quality teams that the Bucks have struggled with, going 3-8 in that same stretch against teams with winning records.

5. Friday night was no different. The fourth quarter saw a big performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo as he had 13 of his 28 points during it. That included a 7-of-9 mark from the free throw line.

6. In the fourth, Milwaukee went a stretch where their focus was to set Antetokounmpo in isolation on the left wing and attack the basket. He did so successfully, and that shows by all three of his makes from the floor coming within six feet of the rim as well as his frequent trips to the foul line.

7. Antetokounmpo was helped out plenty in the fourth by Khris Middleton as well. He had eight of his game-high 30 points in the final period. Middleton had one of his best games in recent memory, as he was a very efficient 11-of-16 from the floor.

8. It’s early-to-mid March right now, and the Bucks are in no danger of missing the playoffs currently. That being said, this was a must-win game for Milwaukee, and the next three games are as well.

9. The Knicks, at one point in time had playoff aspirations for this season. That goal was finished the exact second forward Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL against the Bucks in New York in early February. Now, New York is hoping for the highest draft pick possible in the 2018 NBA Draft in June. The Knicks have now lost 14 of their last 15 games. They’ve won a single game since Porzingis was injured, and that was against the Orlando Magic, another team glued to the bottom of the NBA.

10. The Bucks needed this game, after finishing a stretch of eight out of nine games against teams with winning records. Milwaukee went 2-7, with the wins coming on the road in overtime against Toronto and at home against Philadelphia.

11. Milwaukee started a stretch of four straight games against teams below .500 on Friday night with the Knicks. The Bucks now head on the road to take on the Memphis Grizzles and Orlando Magic before returning home next Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks. As of this writing, those teams have a combined winning percentage of .295 on the season. The Magic and Hawks are the two teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and the Grizzles are the current bottom feeders in the Western Conference.

12. All three of the remaining games in this stretch are games that need to be won by Milwaukee. After Atlanta, Milwaukee heads to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers. Cleveland has been up and down on the season, but LeBron James and company are always a challenge for the Bucks.

13. Again, it’s always good to get a win, especially when a team has struggled to get them as of late. Milwaukee needs to be able to beat good teams before anyone begins to believe in them.

14. The Bucks are back in action on Monday night in Memphis against the Grizzles.

Last shots: Rockets 110, Bucks 99

MILWAUKEE – Fifteen last shots for the 15 points scored off the bench by Bucks guard Sterling Brown in Milwaukee’s 110-99 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

1. Losing to the Rockets is nothing that Milwaukee should hang its head over. It’s happening to every team in the league. Wednesday night was Houston’s 17th consecutive win. The last loss for the Rockets came all the way back on January 26.

2. Since then, the Rockets have beaten some of the NBA’s best in San Antonio, Cleveland, Minnesota (twice), Denver (twice), Boston, Oklahoma City, and now Milwaukee.

3. What needs to get across is that Houston isn’t just a good team. They’re a great team. This version of the Rockets owns the best offensive rating in league history. Entering Wednesday night, Houston was scoring 116 points per 100 possessions. The current record for a full season belongs to the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors that went on to win the Finals.

4. This version of the Rockets could win the title this year and it should surprise absolutely no one. They’re that good.

5. Early in the game, the Rockets looked like they had played a game in a different part of the country last night – because they did – and Milwaukee looked like it was off yesterday. That didn’t matter as the Rockets held a 24-22 lead after the first quarter. It was a time when Milwaukee looked like the team with more energy, and it still wasn’t enough.

6. In the second quarter things looked a little more as expected, as Houston outscored Milwaukee by 10 points, thanks in part to a buzzer-beating 26-foot 3-pointer by James Harden. That put them ahead at halftime 58-46, with Houston only connecting on 7-of-19 3-pointers.

7. Houston is trying to change the way that basketball is played. The Rockets are taking more 3-pointers than anyone else, and they’re taking longer 3-pointers than anyone else. There have been 37 games in the NBA this season where a team has shot 45 or more 3-pointers in a single game. The Rockets have been the team to do it in 26 of those 37 games.

8. The Rockets finished the game against the Bucks hitting 19-of-40 3-pointers. The Bucks haven’t attempted 40 3-pointers in a game once this season. Milwaukee’s season-high is 36 3-pointers attempted against Charlotte back in November.

9. With all this being said, things aren’t going great for Milwaukee right now to say the least. The Bucks have lost 7-of-9, dating back to the last game before the All-Star break. Of those nine games, eight of them have come against teams that currently are in the playoff picture.

10. The schedule lightens greatly for the Bucks moving forward, as the next four games are all against teams that have losing records. The Knicks, Grizzlies, Magic, and Hawks are all competing for the first pick in the draft this summer. Those games should be wins, if they’re not, something is seriously wrong.

11. “We’ve got to win,” forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said following the loss to the Rockets. “We’ve got to win those four games. Period. That’s it.”

12. Antetokounmpo is correct. The Bucks, luckily, aren’t in danger of falling out of the playoffs thanks to Detroit’s ineptitude recently. Milwaukee holds a five-game lead over the Pistons as things stand Wednesday night.

13. That being said, the Bucks have certainly set themselves up for a more difficult than desired first round playoff matchup. As things stand now, the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and Cleveland Cavaliers are the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, and likely to stay there. Winning 4-of-7 against any of those three teams seems like an awfully tall task.

14. Antetokounmpo was a bright spot for the Bucks offensively, after recent struggles, he had a game-high 30 points for Milwaukee. Sterling Brown also played well, scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds off the bench in 26 minutes.

15. At the end of the night, the Bucks played better than they have at times over this recent stretch. It just wasn’t enough to beat the best team in the NBA.

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.

Stretch after All-Star break will be telling for Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks were in an odd place in January. They were dwelling near the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, nowhere near the place the team expected to be.

On January 22, the team removed coach Jason Kidd from the job while they were 23-22, and had lost four of their last five games. The Bucks were underachieving, no doubt about it. The team’s record was better than it could have been, considering the net rating of the team was negative. They were allowing 107.5 points per 100 possessions while scoring 107.1.

All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was away from action for eight days while resting his sore right knee. The time was right for a change at the top and bringing in Joe Prunty as the interim coach was the right move.

Since Prunty took command, the Bucks have gone 9-3 and played the second-best defense in the league, sporting a 100.4 defensive rating. That stretch has moved them up from 25th in the league in defensive rating to a tie for 15th for the entire season. It’s been impressive to watch for Milwaukee, but the question looms about whether or not the Bucks have been that good, or if they’ve benefitted from the softest part of their schedule.

Of Milwaukee’s nine wins since Prunty took over, eight of them have come against teams that currently have records below .500. The lone win against a winning team came by knocking off Philadelphia with All-Star center Joel Embiid sitting out the second night of a back-to-back.

It’s surely a comforting thing for fans to see the team defeat the opponents it should, especially the way they’ve won. Doing it with defense is a great recipe in the NBA, and with that unit led by a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Antetokounmpo, the Bucks should be much closer to the top of the league than they were.

With that being said, has their defense improved because of Prunty or because of the teams they’ve played? They certainly have done some things differently on that end of the floor, specifically their pick-and-roll defense. With that being said, it’s an incredibly challenging thing to overhaul an entire defensive system on the fly, thus little tweaks will have to suffice. The Bucks were among the league leaders in trapping on the pick-and-roll and have since changed.

They’ve done that against some really poor offensive teams, however. Of their eight wins, the best offensive team they’ve beaten was Philadelphia, who comes in at 14th in offensive rating for the season, and that victory came without Embiid on the floor, as mentioned.

The remaining eight wins have come against Orlando (18th), New York twice (23rd), Brooklyn twice (24th), Chicago (28th), Phoenix (29th), and Atlanta (22nd)

The defense has been good in those games, however in the two instances in which Milwaukee has faced top 10 offenses, they’ve not performed nearly as well and lost. In the loss to Minnesota (third rated offense), Milwaukee allowed 108 points while finishing the game with a defensive rating of 111.6. When the Bucks hosted the Denver Nuggets (seventh), they allowed a season-high 134 points while their defensive rating was 129.1. That was mostly due to the Nuggets nearly setting an NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a game with 24.

After the All-Star break things won’t be getting easier for Milwaukee, either. The Bucks face teams with winning records in seven of their first eight games after the break. The lone team with a losing record, the Detroit Pistons, could potentially have a winning record at the time of the matchup as they have three games prior to taking on the Bucks and are currently 28-29.

The Bucks improving after firing Kidd was something that should have happened. They were underachieving and had the benefit of the softest three weeks of the year approaching. The real test for Milwaukee will be the post break stretch.

After winning 9-of-12 since Prunty took over, this becomes the most important stretch of the season for the Bucks. Showing that they can compete with some of the top teams in the league like Toronto and Houston could keep them in the race to hold home court in the first round. A disastrous stretch could place Milwaukee back fighting for the playoffs, exactly where they were when Kidd was fired.

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.

Bucks end road trip with 111-104 win over Orlando

For some reason, the Milwaukee Bucks have thrived playing on the second day of a back-to-back this season. Their win over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night reinforced that. Milwaukee defeated the Magic 111-104 on the road to win on the second leg of a back-to-back for the sixth straight time.

The Bucks are an NBA best 9-3 in that scenario. The average winning percentage across the league in that situation is well below .500, but the Bucks have thrived.

All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading scorer for the Bucks with 32 points on the night. In total, four of the five starters for Milwaukee reached double-figures in scoring, with Jason Terry also adding in 11 points off the bench.

Orlando was led by Mario Hezonja in scoring. He had 23 points for the Magic.

The win moves Milwaukee to 31-24 on the season, currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks sit 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third seed entering Sunday.

Milwaukee now returns home after finishing their four-game road trip with a record of 3-1. They take on the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.

Bucks lose to Heat 91-85

Dwyane Wade’s return to Miami came at the expense of the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. The Bucks suffered an awful third quarter, in which they were outscored 30-8, that proved to be the difference in Milwaukee’s first loss on their four game road trip.

All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was the game’s high scorer with 23 points, however he did so on an inefficient 8-for-21 shooting from the floor. Guard Eric Bledsoe chipped in 19 points in the loss as well.

Bledsoe did have a chance to cut Miami’s lead down to two with 30 seconds remaining, but was blocked by Wade in transition. Miami recovered the ball, advanced it up the court, and Wayne Ellington buried his third 3-pointer of the night to push Miami’s lead to 88-81 with 14 seconds remaining.

The loss snaps Milwaukee’s winning streak at five. They’re 7-2 since interim head coach Joe Prunty took over, however they’re 1-2 against teams that currently possess winning records.

The Bucks finish their four game road trip in Orlando on Saturday night.

Bucks defeat Knicks 103-89

The Milwaukee Bucks have had the best two-plus weeks of their season since parting ways with former head coach Jason Kidd. Tuesday night was more of the same as they defeated the New York Knicks 103-89 on the road.

All-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 23 points and 11 rebounds, but the story of the night was his first half dunk where he jumped over guard Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Knicks.

Hardaway Jr. is listed at 6-foot-6, Antetokounmpo jumping over him resulted in the internet going crazy over the play, one that is sure to be rewatched millions of times in the coming days.

Antetokounmpo didn’t need to carry the entire load for the Bucks in the win, however. Guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Khris Middleton scored 23 and 20 points, respectively, and guard Sean Kilpatrick added in 16 points off the bench.

The Knicks were led by big man Enes Kanter. He had 19 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. All-Star forward Kristaps Porzinigs went down in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. The team announced late Tuesday night that he sustained a torn ACL in his left knee and will miss the remainder of the season.

Forward Jabari Parker, who is just returning from a torn ACL himself, scored 10 points in his third game this season. He has reached double-figures in each of the three games he’s played.

The Bucks are now 7-1 since interim head coach Joe Prunty took over the team, however only of one those victories came against a team with a record better than .500 on the season.

Bucks defeat Brooklyn 109-94.

The Milwaukee Bucks started their four-game road trip with a 109-94 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

Milwaukee built a lead as large as 28 points early in the third quarter before taking its foot off the gas and allowing Brooklyn back into the game. The Nets eventually cut the lead down to seven points with under nine minutes remaining, but the Bucks were able to pull out the victory thanks to a strong fourth quarter from guard Eric Bledsoe.

Part of the reason Bledsoe was needed to have a big fourth quarter was All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving the game after twisting his ankle with 7:34 left in regulation. Antetokounmpo finished with 16 points in just under 28 minutes.

Bledsoe was the leading scorer for Milwaukee, finishing with 28 points, four rebounds, and six assists in the victory. In total, Milwaukee placed five players in double-figures for scoring. That included forward Jabari Parker. In his second game back after returning from a torn left ACL Parker had 11 points in 17 minutes. Center John Henson had one of his best games of the season, he had 19 points and 18 rebounds for the Bucks.

Milwaukee might be in more trouble at the point guard position. After Malcolm Brogdon was diagnosed with a quad injury that’s expected to keep him out for 6-to-8 weeks, Matthew Dellavedova sprained his right ankle early in the fourth quarter and did not return to action.

The Bucks continue their road trip on Tuesday night in New York against the Knicks. Tip-off is at 6pm (CT).