Bucks fire Kidd, defeat Suns 109-105

Monday was an interesting day for the Milwaukee Bucks as it started with the franchise relieving Jason Kidd of his duties as head coach. Later Monday night the Bucks snapped a short two game losing skid with a 109-105 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Forward Khris Middleton had 35 points on the evening. His effort was aided by guard Malcolm Brogdon who finished with a career-high 32 points in his return from a one game absence. Brogdon missed Milwaukee’s loss to Philadelphia on Saturday night while he was handling a personal matter.

The Bucks trailed Phoenix 79-76 to start the fourth quarter but outscored the Suns 33-26 in the game’s final period. Middleton and Brogdon combined for 23 of Milwaukee’s 33 points. Middleton made all four shots he attempted in the quarter.

Phoenix was led by forward TJ Warren in scoring with 23 points. Center Greg Monroe had 19 points and seven rebounds in his return to Milwaukee after being traded from the Bucks to the Suns earlier in the season.

Milwaukee All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo missed his second consecutive game with a sore right knee. He is expected to return on Friday night when the Bucks host the Brooklyn Nets.

Bucks fire coach Jason Kidd

The Jason Kidd era in Milwaukee is over.

As first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bucks fired Kidd on Monday afternoon, bringing his tenure to an end at 291 games. He went 139-152 in those games, including a pair of playoff appearances that ended with them losing in the first round both times.

This year, though, Milwaukee has struggled to meet fan expectations, going just 23-22 despite having one of the top players in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“We appreciate everything that Jason has done for the Bucks organization, but we have decided to make a coaching change,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a press release. “We believe that a fresh approach and a change in leadership are needed to continue elevating our talented team towards the next level, bringing us closer to our goal of competing for championships. Jason led a historic turnaround during his first season and would guide our team to two playoff appearances. He also played a meaningful role in helping to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee. We thank him for all of his contributions and wish him the best.”

ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported soon after the story was published that Kidd had not officially been told he’d been let go and that Antetokounmpo was “devastated.”

Milwaukee assistant coach Joe Prunty will serve as interim coach starting Monday night when the team faces Phoenix.

Bucks fall to Sixers 116-94

The Milwaukee Bucks dropped their second consecutive game on Saturday night, 116-94 on the road in Philadelphia.

Milwaukee was without forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and guard Malcolm Brogdon in the loss. Antetokounmpo missed the game due to right knee soreness and Brogdon was away from the team while dealing with a personal matter. The Bucks also announced prior to the game that Antetokounmpo will also miss Monday’s game at home against Phoenix.

Philadelphia was led by All-Star forward Joel Embiid. He finished the night with 29 points, nine rebounds, and a pair of blocks for the 76ers. The win for Philadelphia moves them into the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings as of Saturday night. That spot was previously held by the Bucks, who now drop to eighth after losing.

Milwaukee was led by forward Khris Middleton, who had his first career triple-double. He tallied 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. All five starters for Milwaukee reached double-figures in the scoring column. That included Tony Snell and Sterling Brown, who moved into the starting lineup for the absent Antetokounmpo and Brogdon.

Milwaukee will be in action next on Monday night at home against the Phoenix Suns. While Antetokounmpo will not play in that game, he is expected to return to action on Friday night when the Bucks host the Brooklyn Nets.

Giannis Antetokounmpo to miss pair of games

The Milwaukee Bucks have announced that All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the next two games with right knee soreness. Those two games come on Saturday night in Philadelphia and Monday night at home against the Phoenix Suns.

Milwaukee will also be missing guard Malcolm Brogdon Saturday night in Philadelphia. He’s away from the team dealing with a personal matter. Brogdon is expected to be back in the lineup Monday night according to Milwaukee head coach Jason Kidd.

Guard Tony Snell and forward Thon Maker are expected to start in place of Brogdon and Antetokounmpo on Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Antetokounmpo did also miss the December 23 game against Charlotte with soreness in his right knee. Milwaukee lost that game 111-106 despite a 31 points from forward Khris Middleton.

Antetokounmpo is expected to return to action on Friday, January 26, when the Brooklyn Nets visit Milwaukee.

On the season Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. He was named to his second consecutive All-Star team earlier this week by the NBA.

Giannis named All-Star starter for second straight year

He won’t get to choose his teammates, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is an NBA All-Star for a second year in a row.

The final voting numbers were released Thursday, and the Greek Freak finished No. 2 in fan voting, a little more than 100,000 votes behind Cleveland’s LeBron James. It means James will be the captain of one team as part of the new All-Star draft format, while Golden State’s Steph Curry will captain the other team after getting the most fan votes among Western Conference players.

It should be noted that Antetokounmpo actually got more votes from current players than James, and each got all 99 votes from the media.

Antetokounmpo is the first Milwaukee player to go to back-to-back All-Star games since Ray Allen went to three straight from 2000 to 2002. And he’ll be the first to be a starter in back-to-back years since Marques Johnson in 1979 and 1980.

While the Bucks may not necessarily be meeting fans’ expectations, Antetokounmpo has more than held up his end of the bargain. He’s currently second in the NBA in scoring at 28.2 points per game and tenth in rebounding at 10.1 per game. The fifth-year pro also leads Milwaukee in assists, while currently sitting second in steals and blocks.

The rest of the Eastern Conference players in the starters pool are Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Boston’s Kyrie Irving.

On the Western Conference side of things, the starters pool consists of Curry, his teammate Kevin Durant, Houston’s James Harden and the New Orleans pair of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Reserves will be voted on by the NBA’s coaches.

Milwaukee Bucks need to ‘Own the Present’

The Milwaukee Bucks have been using the ‘Own the Future’ slogan since the 2014-15 season. That was the second season in the NBA for forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, the first for oft-injured forward Jabari Parker, and the first with coach Jason Kidd at the helm. Milwaukee was coming off of a 15-win season the year before. The slogan was appropriate at the time with today’s core of Antetokounmpo, Parker, Khris Middleton, and John Henson having little experience.

That team went 41-41 and made the playoffs before losing to the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Milwaukee pushed the series to six games and that was an accomplishment against that Chicago squad. The Bucks had plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. They were ahead of schedule for competing in the playoffs.

Fast-forward to today and there are still reasons to be optimistic about the future of this team. Antetokounmpo is one of the best young players in the NBA, and likely one of the 10 best players in the world. He’s a superstar in the league and has the potential to one day be the league’s best.

While the reasons to be optimistic still exist, the team isn’t ahead of schedule anymore, rather they’re falling behind.

Antetokounmpo is in his fifth season in the NBA, Middleton and Henson are in their sixth, and newly acquired guard Eric Bledsoe is in his eighth. Sure, they can still be considered young to some degree with Antetokounmpo only 23, but they’ve been around. These guys are veterans. Add in other players like Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry that have championship experience and the team doesn’t look nearly as young as the slogan might suggest.

At this point, only reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker, and Sterling Brown can be considered true young guys in the rotation. When Parker returns from his second torn ACL the case can be made for him as well. He’s technically in his fourth season, but he’s already missed 138 games in his career.

This season was when the Bucks were expected to compete for a top-4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Last year they finished above .500 and took the Toronto Raptors to six games in the first round of the playoffs. This year was supposed to be the year that Milwaukee made that jump from the lovable young team to one that could win a playoff series and push teams like Cleveland, Boston, and Toronto at the top of the conference.

In spurts this team has shown just how good they can be. They’ve beaten Cleveland, Boston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Minnesota this season. The Bucks have shown they can compete at a high level. They just haven’t shown the ability to be consistent in doing so.

A perfect example of this was the recent frustrating loss to Miami on Wednesday. The Bucks were leading the Heat heading into the fourth quarter. It was a game that they had every chance to win against a team that’s very similar to who they are. Miami is a team with less star power than Milwaukee, similar experience. In fact, the post LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh era Heat probably have less experience than the Bucks do.

“I think when you become 25 [years old] or on the 28 [years old] range you tend to think about the game,” said Kidd following the loss to Miami. “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 can 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.”

What Kidd said can be interpreted a number of different ways. It can be viewed as a coach becoming increasingly frustrated with the performance of his team, hiding behind the perception of being a young, inexperienced team, or a shot at Antetokounmpo.

Kidd’s frustrations would be warranted. There is growing angst among fans that Kidd is the problem with the Bucks and needs to go. One could speculate that his seat may be getting warm as the Bucks continue to underachieve. Whether or not Kidd’s job is on the line is up for debate and not the conversation this column is focusing on.

This being a shot at Antetokounmpo could make sense because of the players on the floor for the Bucks in the fourth quarter taking shots, he’s the only one that falls outside of the 25-28-year-old age range that Kidd mentioned. Middleton and Bledsoe were the other two players for Milwaukee to get multiple shots up in the final period. They’re 26 and 28, respectively.

In the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo was 1-of-5 shooting, including 1-of-2 from behind the arc. He routinely settled for ill-advised mid-range jumpers instead of attacking the rim. He has yet to develop an effective outside shot, and relying on that down the stretch of a close game isn’t what the Bucks are looking for.

The last option, hiding behind the ‘Own the Future’ slogan, is one that is growing old. The Bucks have been ‘Owning the Future’ since 2014-15. When exactly does the future become the present?

“We are a young team, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” Middleton said. “That’s been an excuse for five years, since I’ve been here. I mean, getting better, it comes with experience. I mean, what we’re going through right now we’ve been through it for a long time. At some point that experience has to kick through, hopefully it will this season.”

Middleton is correct. The excuse of being a young team has grown stale. While it would make sense from a marketing standpoint for the Bucks to shed that slogan heading into next season when a new arena in downtown Milwaukee opens up, this team needs to start owning the present day instead of perpetually waiting for the future to arrive.

Last shots: Heat 106, Bucks 101

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.

Bucks knock off Wizards 104-95

The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Washington Wizards 104-95 on Monday afternoon in the nation’s capital snapping their short two-game losing skid.

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had the first 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career. He finished with 27 points, 20 rebounds, and six assists.

The Bucks got off to a hot start opening up a 10-3 lead in the first few minutes of the game before ultimately trailing after the quarter 30-28. Milwaukee was able to then outscore the Wizards 50-42 in the second and third quarters to hold a 78-72 lead entering the final period.

Washington started the fourth quarter racing out to a lead of four with 8:04 remaining after Kelly Oubre Jr. knocked down three free throws. After the Wizards held a 93-91 lead with 5:55 left they were outscored 13-2 down the stretch thanks to aggressive offense from both Antetokounmpo and guard Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe finished the day with 23 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter.

The win moves Milwaukee to 23-20 on the season. They’re back in action on Wednesday night at home taking on the Miami Heat. Milwaukee lost to Miami 97-79 on Sunday afternoon on the road.

Bucks lose to Heat 97-79

The Milwaukee Bucks opened up their quick two game east coast road trip with a 97-79 loss in Miami on Sunday afternoon.

Milwaukee struggled on the offensive end finishing the game with an abysmal shooting percentage of 31.6 (25-79) from the floor. That mark included the Bucks shooting 4-of-28 from behind the 3-point line. The 14.3% mark from deep is the worst for Milwaukee this season, surpassing their loss to Washington in November where they finished the game 4-of-22 (18.2%) from deep.

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading scorer for Milwaukee. He finished the afternoon with 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting and knocked down all 10 free throws that he attempted.

While the Bucks did manage to have four of their five starters reach double-figures in scoring, guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Khris Middleton had especially tough days. Those two combined to shoot 7-of-32 from the floor including 1-of-14 from behind the arc. Bledsoe finished the afternoon with 10 points while Middleton had 16, thanks in large part to a 9-of-10 performance from the free throw line.

The Bucks did hold a 43-41 lead at halftime, but then they struggled to find a rhythm offensively in the second half. Miami outscored them 30-16 in the third quarter to open up a 71-59 lead heading into the fourth.

The loss knocks Milwaukee to 22-20 on the season. Miami has now won seven consecutive games, the longest active win streak in the NBA. The Bucks will be back in action on Monday afternoon in Washington D.C. to take on the Wizards on Martin Luther King Day. Tip off is set for 1pm.

Last shots: Warriors 108, Bucks 94

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Golden State Warriors 108-94 at home on Friday night.

Nineteen last shots for the 19 field goals attempted by Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday night.

1. For much of the season the Bucks have played to the level of their competition. They’ve had impressive wins against the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and Minnesota Timberwolves.

2. Milwaukee has also lost frustrating games to teams that shouldn’t be competitive with them. They’ve slipped up against the Bulls, and Hornets twice, the Mavericks, and the Jazz.

3. The showdown against the Warriors was one that could be thought of as a measuring stick for this young Milwaukee team that’s still looking to ‘Own the Future.’ After all, the Warriors were in the shoes of Milwaukee four or five years ago.

4. Since the start of the 2014-15 season, the Bucks are 1-5 against the Warriors. While the lone win is certainly a memorable one, it is the only one. The Bucks famously ended Golden State’s NBA record season-opening 24-game winning streak to start the 2015-16 season that saw the Warriors win an NBA record 73 games.

5. Friday night fell in line with much of the past between the two teams. The length and athleticism of the Bucks certainly makes life difficult for Golden State at times, but in the end the Bucks just don’t quite have the talent that the Warriors do. Few teams, if any in the NBA do.

6. Give the Bucks credit, they were able to cut into a 14-point lead built by the Warriors. Golden State typically isn’t a team that blows leads. It helped that the Warriors were without star guard Steph Curry, but nonetheless, a young team very easily could have packed it in and lied down for the defending champs in that situation.

7. The Bucks came all the way back to take the lead at 82-80 on a Tony Snell 3-pointer with 56.8 seconds left in the third quarter. The Bucks outscored the Warriors 33-17 in the third quarter, thanks in large part to 11 points from guard Malcolm Brogdon.

8. Brogdon knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter and the Bucks hit 6-of-8 shots from behind the arc as a team. One of the more impressive aspects of the third quarter run for Milwaukee is that much of it came with Antetokounmpo on the bench. He played 7:19 of the quarter. While he was on the bench for the final 4:41 of the period, Warriors star Kevin Durant played the full quarter and was held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting.

9. Outside of that quarter, Durant was 10-of-14 shooting for 22 points. He was the difference maker on the floor Friday night, as he often is for the Warriors. Durant takes this Golden State team to another level. Prior to acquiring him in the summer of 2016 the Warriors were one of the best teams the NBA had ever seen. They were explosive offensively and terrific defensively. They were still mortal, however, as their margin for error wasn’t ultimately as large as previously thought. Adding Durant to that equation made their margin for error humongous.

10. Previously, a third quarter run that the Bucks had might have been enough to win the game against the Warriors. Durant eliminated that Friday. His fourth quarter sealed the win for Golden State.

11. With the Warriors clinging to a 94-90 lead after a pair of free throws by Eric Bledsoe, Durant knocked down a fadeaway jumper from the left elbow over the outstretched hand of Khris Middleton. The defense played by Middleton was fantastic. He was in the right position, did everything possible, and it didn’t matter as Durant splashed the ball through the net from 18-feet out.

12. As the pair went down to the other end of the floor Durant had words for Middleton. While it’s not revealed what they said, Durant would not have been out of line if he had apologized to Middleton for what he just did, and what he was about to do.

13. Middleton got the ball on the right wing, attempted to get to the rim and make a pass to the corner. He ended up turning the ball back over to the Warriors. Once back down the floor Durant came off a screen to the top of the key and buried a 3-pointer.

14. Just like that, the Warriors went from being in a close game with 3:11 left in regulation to sucking the life and sending the Bucks’ fans home with 2:19 left.

15. The easy comparison to make here is one between Antetokounmpo and Durant. Both are near 7-foot in stature and athletic freaks that can almost score at will. Obviously, Durant is a much more polished shooter from the outside and Antetokounmpo can be considered the better scorer around the rim at this point.

16. To ask Antetokounmpo to become Durant at this point in his career is a tall task. Durant very well could go down as one of the five best scorers in NBA history. Their styles of play may never allow them to be realistic matches for a legitimate comparison, but the impact that they have on the game is what the Bucks should hope can be compared in the future.

17. Antetokounmpo has elevated the Bucks to a playoff-caliber team, and one that could potentially make noise in the Eastern Conference this year. One day, the Bucks hope to be in the same situation as the Warriors where they’re hunting for championships and playing with a high margin for error. They’re not there yet, but neither were the Warriors five seasons ago.

18. “I think we’ve been inconsistent,” said Brogdon of Milwaukee’s play in the first half of the season. “I think we’ve honestly underperformed so far, but I think we have a lot of potential and we’re going to rise to the expectations and rise to the occasion in the second half of the season.”

19. The ceiling in Milwaukee is certainly high as long as Antetokounmpo is in the picture. The margin for error still has a long way to go until the Bucks become a true championship contender.