Reports: Bucks to hire Horst as new GM

Amid internal strife, the Milwaukee Bucks apparently have their new general manager.

ESPN’s Mark Stein was the first to report the team would officially announce sometime Friday that they were elevating Jon Horst, their current director of basketball operations, to GM.

Earlier on Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ‘The Vertical,’ tweeted there was some “contentious ownership disagreement” over the search for John Hammond’s replacement. While interim GM Justin Zanik had the backing of owner Marc Lasry and coach Jason Kidd, there was no a clear consensus.

Horst has been with Milwaukee since 2008, and there were some reports that suggested that Hammond was considering him for a role with Orlando, where he is now the GM.

Zanik was thought to be the front runner when Hammond left last month, but the team conducted a vast search that has now lasted close to a month. During that time, Zanik has been preparing for the NBA draft, which is less than a week away.

Report: Bucks opening up GM search to external candidates

MILWAUKEE — Despite initially receiving the moniker “GM-in-waiting,” Justin Zanik will have some competition if he wants to become the next general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Zanik was hired away from the Utah Jazz last summer to work alongside John Hammond, who signed a five-year contract to take over as general manager of the Orlando Magic. In an interview with the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network last June, team president Peter Feigin gushed about Zanik as a “terrific hire,” but never committed to Zanik as Hammond’s replacement.

Hammond signed a contract extension two summers ago, taking him through the 2017-18 season. In the June interview, Feigin expected Hammond to eventually be on the same payment schedule as coach Jason Kidd, which would keep him on board through the 2019-2020 season.

“If you ask the owners, the intention would be that we’re making a commitment long-term…to have a plan and get somewhere in these first three to five seasons [under new ownership],” Feigin said. “…So there’s a plan to keep everyone intact.”

ESPN’s report about the Bucks’ GM search includes a detail stating that Milwaukee’s “special consultant,” Rod Thorn, would lead the way in the hiring process. Thorn cut his teeth in the NBA as a former GM of the Bulls and Nets, where he was responsible for trading for Michael Jordan and Jason Kidd, respectively.

Bucks cruise to a 104-77 win over the Raptors in Game 3

Game 3 was no contest for the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, as they rolled over the third-seeded Toronto Raptors 104-77 Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

From the opening tip the crowd inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center was roaring, and the Bucks responded in kind, outscoring the Raptors 57-30 in the first half on the way to their biggest margin of victory in a playoff game since 1984.

“We know they’re going to come back on Saturday afternoon ready, just like after (losing) game one,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said of the Raptors. “Bu I thought the guys did everything we’ve prepared them to do. Defense is what we’ve always concentrated on and sharing the ball on the offensive end. The guys did that.”

Guard Khris Middleton led the way for Milwaukee, scoring 20 points and handing out seven assists, while forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points and eight rebounds. Center Greg Monroe added 16 points off the bench for a Milwaukee squad that shot 52.7 percent from the field and 52.2 percent from beyond the arc.

As good as the Bucks were on offense, they were just as good, if not better, on the other end of the court. They limited the Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen to 21 combined points on 4 of 18 shooting, including the latter going 0 of 8, the first time he’s been held without a field goal in his playoff career.

The win gave Milwaukee its first 2-1 lead in a playoff series since 2001.

Game 4 is set for Saturday in Milwaukee. Tip time is at 2 p.m.

Milwaukee comes up just short against Toronto in 106-100 loss

Kyle Lowry hit a tough jumper with 8.9 seconds left to help Toronto even up their best-of-seven series at one against Milwaukee with a 106-100 win on Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.

With Bucks guard Malcom Brogdon right in his face, the Raptors All-Star was able to get just enough separation and buried the shot, taking with it Milwaukee’s hopes of heading home up two games to none.

“If I would have missed it, I still would have been happy, because I got to my spot,” said Lowry, who finished with 22 points. “I was going to try to make it.”

Lowry’s dagger came after Milwaukee got two open looks at 3-pointers in the final two minutes and trailing by just two. But both Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova couldn’t get their shots to fall.

“It was in and out,” Brogdon said of his shot. “It was wide-open. I was hoping it would drop, but it didn’t. That’s what happens sometimes.”

Milwaukee trailed by as many as 12 in the final quarter, but continued to fight its way back into the game only to come up just short in the end.

“It would have been easy to let go of the rope,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We got down, but they kept playing. We had an opportunity there. We got some great looks. The ball goes halfway down and comes out. That’s just basketball. It can be nice or it can be cruel.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for Milwaukee with 24 points and 15 rebounds, while Khris Middleton added 20 and Greg Monroe had 18 off the bench.

Toronto was paced by DeMar DeRozan’s 23 points.

The series now heads back to Milwaukee for the next two contests, with Game 3 taking place Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Bucks lose regular-season finale at Boston

A depleted Milwaukee (42-40) team finished the regular season with a 112-94 loss at Boston (53-29) on Wednesday night.

Coach Jason Kidd opted to keep four players back home to rest for the playoffs, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, leaving a skeleton crew to take on a Celtics squad that was fighting for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. And for three quarters, the Bucks made them sweat, trailing by just four with less than six minutes to play before Boston pulled away down the stretch.

Michael Beasley and Spencer Hawes paced Milwaukee with 15 points apiece, while Rashad Vaughn added 14 points.

The game meant little for the Bucks, who were already locked into the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, but Kidd believes they accomplished what they set out to do.

“We got a lot done today. One, our health. We came out healthy. Two, guys were pros (and) they played (hard),” Kidd said. “For three quarters it was a ball game. Fatigue might have set in a little bit. But I thought guys really gave their best.

“We got some minutes with (John) Henson and Malcom (Brogdon). Now we have to turn the page and get ready for Toronto.”

Milwaukee will open the playoffs on the road at third-seeded Toronto on Saturday afternoon. The Raptors won the season series 3-1.

Full schedule:

Game 1 – Sat. April 15 Milwaukee at Toronto, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 2 – Tue. April 18 Milwaukee at Toronto, 7 p.m., NBA TV
Game 3 – Thu. April 20 Toronto at Milwaukee, 8 p.m., NBA TV
Game 4 – Sat. April 22 Toronto at Milwaukee, 3 p.m., TNT
Game 5 * Mon. April 24 Milwaukee at Toronto, 7 p.m., NBA TV
Game 6 * Thu. April 27 Toronto at Milwaukee, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. April 29 Milwaukee at Toronto, TBD, TNT

Antetokounmpo’s 25 points not enough as the Bucks fall at Indiana 104-89

The hottest team in March has yet to win a game in the month of April.

For a third straight outing, the Milwaukee Bucks were on the losing end, this one a 104-89 setback against the Indiana Pacers to drop coach Jason Kidd’s team into the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race with three games to play.

“It’s hard to win in this league in March and April,” Kidd said afterwards. “Everyone’s trying to win. The teams that aren’t in the playoffs are trying to win, too, and trying to get better. You can’t take anybody lightly. You can’t exhale. For us, we’ve got to get back to being the aggressors.”

Playing without rookie Malcom Brogdon (back soreness) for a fourth straight game, the Bucks turned the ball over 21 times – the second-most they’ve had in a game all year – allowing the Pacers to turn defense into offense and keeping Milwaukee out of any kind of rhythm.

“We had way too many turnovers. We talked about it before the game,” Kidd said. “You turn the ball over against them it puts you in a bad situation defensively, because they’re going to take advantage of it, and they did.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a game-high 25 points, while Mirza Teletovic had 15 points (5 of 8 on 3-pointers) off the bench for the Bucks.

Had Milwaukee won, it would have clinched a playoff berth for just the third time since 2010. As it stands, the Bucks are now a ½ game back of Atlanta for the No. 5 seed, and a game up on the Bulls and Pacers.

“We can’t worry about (Indiana) or Chicago. We’ve done our job in the sense of the (season) series and tiebreakers (with them) if that comes into play,” Kidd said. “But we are still in control of our own destiny. We just have to find a way to win.”

Milwaukee will finish out the year at Philadelphia on Saturday, a home game against Charlotte on Monday and then a trip to Boston next Wednesday.

Jason Kidd named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month

MILWAUKEE | Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd has been named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for March. Under Kidd’s guidance, the Bucks won an NBA-best 14 games in March and had the Eastern Conference’s top winning percentage after going 14-4 (.778) during the month.

Milwaukee’s 14 wins in March were the most the team has had in a month since February of 1971 when Milwaukee went 16-2, and rank as the third-most wins in a month in franchise history. The Bucks began the month 26-30, in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings, and finished March a season-high four games over .500 at 40-36 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. March was highlighted by a season-high six-game winning streak from March 3 through March 11 (the team’s longest win streak since the 2011-12 season) and a 4-2 West Coast road trip, which marked the Bucks’ most wins on a single road trip since the 1988-89 season.

Kidd is the sixth head coach in franchise history to win the Coach of the Month award, and the first since Scott Skiles in February of 2010.

Bucks chasing down slim playoff chances

LOS ANGELES — When the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, they’ll do so with slim odds of making the postseason.

FiveThirtyEight.com projects the Bucks to finish with a 39-43 record, good enough for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and two spots out of the playoff spot. That translates to a 37 percent chance of making the postseason, but with just a 24 percent probability of beating the Clippers, those odds may dwindle further on this six-game road trip.

The Bucks had won six in a row heading into Memphis Monday night, but failed to capitalize on what should have been a very winnable game. With 11 of their remaining 16 games on the road, Milwaukee will have to improve on its road record of 12-18 (.400) if it wants to make the postseason for the second time in three years. Six of Milwaukee’s remaining games come against teams with winning records.

The preseason hamstring injury to Khris Middleton severely hampered the Bucks’ three-point shooting, but Milwaukee’s luck got even worse once Middleton returned prior to the All Star break. One has to wonder how Jabari Parker’s second ACL tear affects the team and where it may have been had Parker stayed healthy.

Milwaukee’s playoff chances peaked on Jan. 4 when it was 18-16, following a 105-104 win over the New York Knicks. FiveThirtyEight.com gave the Bucks a 1541 rating, which was slightly above the average rating of 1500.

With a tough schedule remaining and down a key player, will the Bucks pack it in and try better next year? If they miss the playoffs, will people give coach Jason Kidd a pass or hold him accountable?

 

Bucks beat Timberwolves for sixth straight victory

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks picked up their sixth win in a row Saturday night by defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-95 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Milwaukee is starting to figure out how to win without gaudy numbers from Giannis Antetokounmpo, taking advantage of double digit scoring by seven players en route to the win. Tony Snell led the Bucks with 19 points, while Antetokounmpo added 18.

”We’d love for everybody to score 10 points but the big thing is these guys kept fighting,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. ”There are a lot of tired bodies in that locker room.”

The six-game winning streak is the longest Milwaukee has had since the 2011-2012 season. The current run has also placed the Bucks into playoff contention, currently holding what would be the eighth and final playoff spot with about 2 ½ weeks to play.

”You’ve got to play for today,” Kidd said. ”You can’t control the lottery balls. You never know what the future holds. With free agency and the way things change so fast in this league, you have to try to get through that process sooner rather than later.”

It’s the fifth straight game Milwaukee has held its opponent under 100 points — a season-best streak.

Energized Bucks down turnover-prone Clippers 112-101

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks forced the Los Angeles Clippers into 23 turnovers on their way to a 112-101 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Friday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greg Monroe put up 24 points apiece in the win, helping the offense put together a 20-2 run  at the end of the first quarter to give Milwaukee a 23-point cushion. That lead was nearly squandered by the end of the third quarter, but a 15-2 run kept Milwaukee ahead for good.

The win helped ease the pain of a 110-98 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night. Coach Jason Kidd preached effort during Thursday’s practice.

”I thought their intent, their energy, their focus and the carry-over to tonight was very good,” Kidd said.

The Clippers shot 56 percent from the field, but 11 steals by the Bucks made any comeback effort difficult for Chris Paul and his crew. Paul finished with 21 points for LA, fighting through a sore left thumb (torn ligament).

The Bucks have eased Khris Middleton into the starting lineup after returning from a torn hamstring about a month ago. He finished with 19 points and nine assists, and plans to start Saturday night when Milwaukee hosts the Toronto Raptors.