Milwaukee Bucks lose fourth straight to Cleveland

CLEVELAND — The Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night in Cleveland. The Bucks have now dropped four in a row, and five of six since winning three of their first four.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 40 points, nine rebounds and three assists on the night, but he also had eight turnovers. Guard Malcolm Brogdon finished the night with 22 points and Khris Middleton had 22 points and 11 assists.

Cleveland was led by LeBron James and Kevin Love to beat the Bucks. James finished with 30 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds on the night. Love had a season-high 32 points and 16 rebounds. He did a good amount of damage from the free throw line, going 14-of-16 from the charity stripe. Cavaliers also got 20 points from guard J.R. Smith and 10 points from sixth-man Dwyane Wade.

The Bucks were in the news earlier Tuesday when news broke that they traded with the Phoenix Suns for guard Eric Bledsoe. The Bucks sent center Greg Monroe, a protected first-round pick, and a protected 2018 second-round pick. Bledsoe did not play against Cleveland, but is expected to join the team in San Antonio on Wednesday in advance of their matchup with the Spurs on Friday night according to ESPN.

Report: Milwaukee Bucks trade for Eric Bledsoe

The Milwaukee Bucks made the first big splash via trade of the season by acquiring guard Eric Bledsoe from the Phoenix Suns according to ESPN. The Bucks have sent Greg Monroe, their protected 2018 first-round pick, and a second-round pick to the Suns in exchange for Bledsoe according to the report.

Bledsoe has only played in three games this season for Phoenix. He left the team after he tweeted that he wanted out of the situation on October 22.

In those three games this year Bledsoe averaged 15.7 points per game. Over his career he has averages of 13.1 points per game, 4.6 assists, and 3.8 rebounds.

The Bucks play in Cleveland Tuesday night, Bledsoe is not expected to be available to play.

Milwaukee Bucks fall to Detroit 105-96

DETROIT | The Milwaukee Bucks losing skid hit three games on Friday night in Detroit. They fell to the Pistons 105-96. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 29 points, but was only able to add in four rebounds and three assists on the night.

Antetokounmpo did get help from guard Malcolm Brogdon. He had a double-double with 21 points and 10 assists. Milwaukee’s biggest issue was the lack of scoring off the bench, however. They only were able to get 14 points from reserves. Matthew Dellavedova had nine points and Then Maker had five. Detroit doubled their bench scoring, totaling 28 points from their reserves.

Detroit was lead by center Andre Drummond who finished with 24 points, including a 14-of-16 mark from the free throw line. Guard Avery Bradley also had a strong game, he finished with 23 points on the night.

Milwaukee is in action next on Tuesday night when they travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers. Cleveland won the previous matchup between the two teams this year, 116-97 back on October 20 in Milwaukee.

Bucks fall to Thunder 110-91

MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-91 on Tuesday night. Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo’s effort wasn’t enough to get past reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, along with Thunder newcomers Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

Antetokounmpo finished the night with 28 points, eight rebounds, and three assists, but was unable to get much help from his teammates. He was the only member of the Bucks to hit double-figures in scoring. Notably, forward Chris Middleton’s struggles continued. He only scored nine points on the night, missing 10 of his 13 attempted shots.

Westbrook didn’t do most of his damage in the scoring column for Oklahoma City, but he was able to play a complete game. He nearly finished with a triple-double coming up an assist short. His final line had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists. George was highest in the scoring column for the Thunder. He finished with 20 points, while Anthony and forward Jeramy Grant each finished with 17 points. In total, Oklahoma City had five players in double-digits scoring.

The loss drops Milwaukee to 4-3 on the season. They’re in action on Wednesday night in Charlotte against the Hornets. Tip-off is at 7PM.

Bucks drop to Celtics 96-89: Last shots

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.

Bucks top Hornets; Antetokounmpo named Player of the Week

MILWAUKEE | Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the first week of the season, the NBA announced on Monday afternoon. Antetokounmpo averaged 38.3 points per game to go along with 9.7 rebounds and five assists. He lead the Bucks to a 2-1 start with wins over Boston and Portland, with the lone loss coming to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After receiving the award Monday afternoon, the Bucks were in action later that night squaring off against the Charlotte Hornets in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo lead the way for the Bucks with 32 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists in the 103-94 win. Forward Chris Middleton also had a strong performance for Milwaukee, scoring 20 points on the night.

Charlotte was lead by former Wisconsin Badger Frank Kaminsky with 18 points on six-of-eight from the field. Dwight Howard also had a strong performance, with eight points and 22 rebounds on the evening.

The win pushes the Bucks to 3-1 on the season and drops Charlotte to 1-2.

Milwaukee will be in action next on Thursday, October 26 to take on the Boston Celtics in the “Return to the Mecca” game being played at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Tip-off is at 7PM.

Giannis Antetokounmpo can reach MVP levels, but isn’t there yet

Milwaukee, WI | Giannis Antetokounmpo has had an outstanding start to his 2017-18 campaign for the Milwaukee Bucks There has been talk nationally and locally about where he ranks among the NBA’s best.

The supremely talented 6’11” Filathlitikos, Greece native is working his way into the upper-echelon of basketball players. It’s not crazy to think that he will find himself in the thick of the NBA MVP conversation when voting commences next spring.

Friday night the world was reminded just how far he has to go to be the best in the world, and LeBron James reminded the world that he’s still on that throne.

Midway through the final period of Friday night’s 116-97 Cleveland victory over Milwaukee James put an exclamation mark on that thought. Antetokounmpo had a one-on-one fast break opportunity with only James standing between him and the basket. Antetokounmpo stretched his incredibly long legs in an effort to go to the left side of James and lay the ball up and in the hoop and cut the Cavs’ lead to 10. James seemingly let Antetokounmpo glide past him and elevate the ball up near the glass.

The sports world has seen the ending to this story many times. James pinned Antetokounmpo’s layup attempt off the glass, in a block that the star has been able to repeat time and time again, most famously in the 2016 NBA Finals.

The sequence continued as the Cavaliers were able to recover the ball after James’ block. They brought the ball up the court before and moved it gracefully around the floor. That created confusion amongst Milwaukee’s defense, leaving a wide-open Cavalier at the top of the three-point arc.

The Cavalier was, you guessed it, James.

The missing member of the Bucks was Antetokounmpo.

James knocked down the wide-open three to push Cleveland’s lead to 15 with less than 6:30 to play.

Looking at the stat sheet from Friday night’s game will tell you that Antetokounmpo outplayed the four-time MVP. The eye test will tell you a different story. Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists on 15-of-22 shooting. James finished with 24 points, five rebounds, and eight assists on 10-of-16 from the floor.

The 22-year-old Antetokounmpo certainly can reach a level close to the one which James operates, however he isn’t there yet.

There’s no shame in that for Antetokounmpo, and there shouldn’t be. He knows he isn’t the player that James is at this point in his career, no one is.

“I am not on that level yet.” Antetokounmpo said following the loss. “LeBron James is one of the best players in the league and one of the best to ever play the game.”

Antetokounmpo’s statement does offer one key word, ‘yet’. If he can reach a level even slightly below James he will go down as one of the best players to ever touch a basketball. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s one that he should have.

Antetokounmpo has all the physical tools to be a legend in the NBA, the place where James is far past him is mentally. James has one of the highest basketball IQ’s to ever set foot on a basketball court, and that’s something Antetokounmpo needs to improve upon.

Moments where Antetokounmpo can be better include when he has mismatches on the offensive end and fails to take advantage of them. On Friday night there were multiple possessions in which he had Cavaliers’ center Tristan Thompson on him. Instead of attacking the less athletic big man, he deferred to his teammates. Those moments need to be where Antetokounmpo takes over, and eventually they will be.

Antetokounmpo has an extremely bright future, and one day can take the throne as the best basketball player alive from James, but Friday night reminded us how wide that gap still is.

Breaking down the Bucks 2017-18 schedule

MILWAUKEE — The NBA released its full schedule of games Monday night, highlighted by some key dates for the Milwaukee Bucks.

While the Bucks will have fewer nationally televised games in the 2017-18 season than in past years (16, down from 20 the past two seasons), they’ll still be part of some marquee matchups. That includes games on Halloween (vs Thunder), New Year’s Day (@ Raptors), Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 4 @ Nets), St. Patrick’s Day (vs Hawks), and Easter (@ Nuggets).

Milwaukee’s schedule should be a little less taxing, with 14 back-to-back games, down from 17 last season.

The full schedule can be found here.

Key Matchups
Oct. 18 @ Boston Celtics
The Bucks have opened the season at home each of the past two seasons, so it’s their turn to open on the road in 2017-18. Milwaukee went 1-2 against Boston last season, finishing the regular season with a 112-94 loss at the TD Garden.

Oct. 20 vs Cleveland Cavaliers
One of the Bucks’ top opponents comes at the start of the schedule, with LeBron James and company heading to the BMO Harris Bradley Center to hand Milwaukee another early test. It remains to be seen if Kyrie Irving will be part of that roster.

Jan. 1 @ Toronto Raptors
The Bucks will have to wait until New Year’s Day to get a measure of revenge against the team that knocked them out of the first round of last year’s playoffs. It could also help decide what direction Milwaukee heads with the All Star break slated for mid-February.

Return to The MECCA?
For months, the Bucks have been teasing a return to the UW | Milwaukee Panther Arena, formerly known as The MECCA, where the team called home during its only championship in 1971. That year, the Bucks beat the Washington Bullets for the championship, so it’s possible the highly-anticipated return could take place on either Nov. 20 or Feb. 27 when the Washington Wizards are scheduled to visit Milwaukee.

Report: Greg Monroe to opt in for 2017-18 season

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks will retain their prized free agency acquisition from 2015, after the team was notified Wednesday morning that center Greg Monroe would exercise his player option and return for the 2017-18 season. The Vertical  was the first to report the news, which has since been confirmed by several other media outlets.

Monroe signed a three-year, $51.4 million contract with the Bucks in 2015 worth an average of $17.1 million per season. That was a huge payday for an offensive mainstay in Detroit that earned $5.4 million in 2014, his final season with the Pistons.

While not confirmed at the time of publication, Monroe’s motivation for re-upping with the Bucks is likely two-fold: The uncertainty of a very active trade season throughout the NBA; And the balance of potential success with the Bucks paired with a large contract. Monroe’s decision nets him an additional $17.88 million this upcoming season, although his role could change with the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

The consensus among many mock draft analysts is that Milwaukee will select a center in Thursday’s draft, leaving Monroe’s status up in the air. He was relegated to a bench role in 2016, which Monroe learned from reporters during a preseason Media Day session.

Bucks bust out of slump for 116-100 win over Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS — The Milwaukee Bucks defense was more solid, while the offense was firing in a 116-100 win over the Indiana Pacers Saturday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo just missed out on a triple double, recording 20 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds in the win. Milwaukee’s offense also woke up for a season-high 17 three-pointers.

Malcolm Brogdon, Greg Monroe, and Mirza Teletovic gave the Bucks some depth off the bench, each scoring in the double digits in points. Teletovic was 5-of-9 on three-point attempts, finishing with 19 points. Once Milwaukee got out of the first quarter, it never trailed the remainder of the game.

As a team, the Bucks shot 54.8 percent (17-of-31) from beyond the arc, while limiting their turnovers to just six (the Pacers had 14).

The Bucks host the Pistons Monday night before visiting the Nets entering the All-Star Break.