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.