MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Miami Heat for the second time in four days on Wednesday night by a final score of 106-101.
Eighteen last shots for the 18 minutes played by Milwaukee guard Matthew Dellavedova on Wednesday night.
1. The Bucks continue to struggle to find consistency. On Monday afternoon, they beat a very talented Wizards team convincingly. The day before they played arguably their worst game of the season when they lost to the Heat (26-18) in Miami. The brief two-game road trip was an accurate characterization of the 2017-18 season for the Bucks.
2. Wednesday night Milwaukee (23-21) had an opportunity to win consecutive games for the first time since late December when they beat Minnesota and Oklahoma City on back-to-back nights. In the 10 games following the victory over the Thunder the Bucks have alternated wins and losses, with the exception being back-to-back losses against Golden State and Miami.
3. The fight to find consistency has been a difficult one for the Bucks. Not only are they struggling to find it from game to game, but they’re unable to find it for full games. Wednesday night was yet another example of that.
4. After a relatively slow start, Milwaukee played well for the better part of the first three quarters. They held a 79-78 lead entering the final quarter before they fell into the usual bad habits that have cost them numerous games over the course of this season.
5. In the fourth quarter the ball stuck. The Bucks weren’t executing their offense as well as they had before that. Milwaukee started to take poor shots, their passes were limited, and they settled for contested looks. The Bucks made 7-of-18 field goals in the fourth quarter. Khris Middleton scored 13 points and was 5-of-8 from the floor. He was the only player for Milwaukee to make multiple shots. The rest of the team was 2-of-10 shooting.
6. “We have to play together. That’s pretty much it,” said guard Eric Bledsoe, who was 1-of-4 in the game’s final period. “We tried to make small one-on-one plays down the stretch, including myself.”
7. The ugly isolation style of basketball haunts plenty of teams throughout the NBA during the closing moments of games. Plenty of teams have experienced this before this incarnation of the Bucks, plenty others are experiencing it now, and plenty more will in the future.
8. Rarely can a team rely on a single player to continue to make play after play down the stretch. There are instances where it happens, tonight not being one of them. The Bucks need to shed the selfishness that has continued to plague them.
9. The Bucks often rely on forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to take care of things down the stretch. At times, he’s certainly capable. Other times, like tonight, he settles for contested mid-range jumpers and ill-advised 3-pointers. He finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists on the night, but the Bucks needed more from him in the fourth quarter. Antetokounmpo was 1-of-5 shooting from the field in the period. He missed both his free throws he attempted and failed to get to the rim on a consistent basis. Two of the shots he attempted were from behind the arc, with others coming from just inside of it.
10. The reason for the selfishness can be attributed to various things. Whether it’s youth, overconfidence, or something else, it’s continuing to cost Milwaukee winnable games.
11. “In that first half, we moved the ball and made plays for one another,” said Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd. “Fast forward to the fourth quarter, the ball just stuck and whoever had it took it upon themselves to score and you’re not going to win in this league like that. We’re not good enough to do that yet, and this has happened before. We haven’t won a game playing that way. When we start to trust and move the ball and get open shots, that’s when we’re at our best. That fourth quarter is a great example of us just being selfish and playing bad basketball.”
12. Kidd isn’t often this harsh following games, which is understandable. Coaches often want to keep messages like this one in house. Quotes like this can often times lead to turmoil among teams, especially young ones. With that being said, it needed to be said, and could be a way of jump starting this team.
13. “I think when you become 25 [years old] or in the 28 [years old] range you tend to think about the game. We’re talking about kids that are thinking about trying to put the ball in the basket and they all believe they can do it. Until we think about being a team and making a play and being unselfish, bad things will happen. Good things can happen, we’ve seen it. When we’re selfish we are as bad as anybody. There’s no coaching, there isn’t anything you can do but go through it and learn. And we can keep telling them what’s coming, but the final decision is up to them and right now we have a hard time doing that.”
14. Kidd is correct in his assessment that higher basketball IQ comes with more experience and time in the league. That being said, Bledsoe is in his eighth season in the league and Antetokounmpo is in his fifth. These lessons shouldn’t need to be learned by them anymore.
15. Miami played a drastically different style of basketball in the fourth quarter. They shared the basketball and were able to create good shots because of it. Kelly Olynyk scored 10 points for Miami in the fourth, including the first eight to start the period for Miami. He finished the night with 15 points off the bench for Miami.
16. Another issue that Milwaukee had was containing Heat center Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside finished with a game-high 27 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks. He was 10-of-12 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. Nothing Milwaukee did defensively was good enough to stop him.
17. “He was a monster tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You could see it from his very first block, his first over the top rebound in traffic and his very first drive. You could see that he was playing with a different aggressiveness.”
18. The Bucks will be back in action on Saturday night in Philadelphia taking on the 76ers. Tip off from the Wells Fargo Center is at 6:30 PM.