1. When All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo exited the game after twisting his right ankle with four minutes remaining in the second quarter things were looking up for Milwaukee. They were trailing by eight at the time, but had cut a 16-point LA lead in half.
2. Antetokounmpo limped off and back to the locker room and did not return. Milwaukee made another run at the start of the third quarter on an 8-0 run to come within two points of the Clippers but could not get past that. LA quickly pushed the lead back to up to 15 points.
3. The Bucks put forth a strong fourth quarter and did have an opportunity to steal the game from the Clippers. Milwaukee cut the lead to four points with 1:21 remaining in regulation on a Thon Maker dunk. It was set up by a steal from Khris Middleton after he hit put in a layup. After Maker’s dunk LA coach Doc Rivers immediately called for timeout.
4. Middleton finished with a team-high 23 points on the night.
5. Out of the timeout, Rivers’ son, Austin, knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the night to put the Clippers back in front by seven points. It was a dagger right in front of the Milwaukee bench.
6. That 3-pointer by Rivers was LA’s 15th and final of the contest. They outscored Milwaukee 45-24 from deep. That’s an area that haunted the Bucks in the loss on Monday night against Cleveland as well. They were outscored 45-24 from behind the arc in that game, as well.
7. “Honestly, we’ve just got to be able to play against them,” forward Jabari Parker said about the team’s 3-point defense. “That’s not specific defense, that’s just trying to make it hard for them on offense.”
8. Parker did play a season-high in minutes, partly due to the second half absence of Antetokounmpo. He had 20 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench for Milwaukee.
9. Not only did the Bucks struggle to defend the 3-point line in the second half, where the Clippers were 9-of-15, but they failed to defend the paint in the first half. LA’s DeAndre Jordan had a monstorous first quarter for the Clippers. He had a double-double before the game’s first 12 minutes were over, having 14 points and 10 rebounds in that period alone. He finished with 25 points and 22 rebounds.
10. In that first quarter the Bucks allowed 24 of LA’s 38 points to come in the paint. They were also outrebounded 17 to 6. They put more emphasis on the pereimteter early on, which led to the opportunities for Jordan. The second half saw those priorities flipped, which led to a combined 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting by Rivers and 6th Man of the Year candidate Lou Williams.
11. Lately, the Bucks haven’t done much to make things hard offensively for opponents. In six of the last seven games Milwaukee’s opponent has scored 110 points or more. The lone exception was the game against the Memphis Grizzles, when Milwaukee allowed 103 points.
12. Over that stretch the Bucks have allowed an average of 117 points per game. That’s a number that’s far to high for a team with a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Antetokounmpo. The Bucks should not be allowing as many points as they are. There’s no excuse for it.
13. In fact, the only teams that they’ve played in the past seven games that have offenses in the top ten in the NBA in terms of offensive rating are Houston, Cleveland, and LA. Milwaukee allowed 110 points or more to Atlanta (26th), Orlando (25th), and New York (22nd). That needs to stop, even if Milwaukee was able to outscore two of those three teams.
14. Let’s state the obvious: Milwaukee is not going to win games against quality competition without Antetokounmpo. Few teams are able to survive without the player that they’re built around. There may be exceptions from time to time on short-term instances. Over the long-haul stars win in the NBA, and that’s what Antetokounmpo is, and even that hasn’t been enough lately for Milwaukee.
15. After the game, interim head coach Joe Prunty did not have an official update on the status of Antetokounmpo. He was seen walking out of the locker room under his own power, although there was an obvious limp as he favored his right leg. For what it’s worth, Antetokounmpo also had a puppy in his hands when he left. Dogs tend to make people happier, but to my knowledge they do not have the power to heal sprained ankles.
16. Luckily for the Bucks, they still hold a five-game lead over ninth-place Detroit for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Each team has 11 games left remaining, however the tiebreaker is not yet settled. The two teams split the regular season series, with each team winning twice. The next step in the tiebreaker procedure is record within the division, and the Pistons currently lead the Bucks by two games in that category.
17. It would take a monumental collapse for the Bucks to miss out on the playoffs. The magic number for Milwaukee is currently six. That means any combination of Milwaukee wins and Detroit losses that equal six would clinch the eight-seed for the Bucks.
18. The Bucks are a near-lock for the playoffs, but the recent play and the question of the injury to Antetokounmpo certainly bring the question up, and understandably so.
19. Tonight’s loss hurts Milwaukee more in terms of seeding positioning as the Miami Heat moved 1.5 games ahead of them. That’s not an insurmountable lead with 11 games remaining, but Miami does own the tiebreaker over Milwaukee. The Heat defeated the Bucks all three times the teams squared off this season. That means that the Bucks would have to finish a full game ahead of Miami in order to finish in seventh place. With the tiebreaker factored in, Miami’s magic number to clinch seventh place in the Eastern Conference is nine.
20. The Bucks are back in action on Friday night in Chicago, Ill. against the Bulls at the United Center. Chicago is currently 24-47 on the season and has lost three in a row.