Bucks beat 76ers 107-95; Parker set to return

Since interim head coach Joe Prunty took over the Milwaukee Bucks last Monday everything has gone as well as possible for the team. Milwaukee is 4-0, forward Khris Middleton was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, and forward Jabari Parker announced that he will be returning on Friday against the New York Knicks.

Monday night Milwaukee won its fourth consecutive game, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 107-95. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo continued his strong stretch since returning from right knee soreness. He finished the night with 31 points, 18 rebounds, and six assists.

The win moves Milwaukee to 27-22, they’re five games above the .500 mark for the first time since December 9, and just the second time this season. More importantly, the Bucks look much more like a contender in the Eastern Conference than they did a week ago.

The Bucks have had a much more consistent effort since the franchise fired Jason Kidd. While they haven’t played a grueling schedule, they’re winning games they struggled with earlier in the season.

Milwaukee still has one game to play before Parker returns to the floor. They travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves Thursday night. Parker will return Friday night at home against New York.

Bucks beat Bulls 110-96

The Milwaukee Bucks won their third consecutive game on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Chicago Bulls 110-96.

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo finished just shy of recording his second consecutive triple-double. He finished with 27 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists in the victory.

Antetokounmpo wasn’t the only player for the Bucks to have a strong performance. In total, five players scored in double-figures for Milwaukee. That included forward Khris Middleton who had 20 points and guard Jason Terry had 12 points off the bench on 4-of-6 from behind the arc.

The Bulls were led by forward Denzel Valentine with 18 points and rookie Lauri Markkanen finished with 17 points to pace Chicago.

Milwaukee raced out to a 61-42 lead at halftime and never looked back en route to the 14 point victory.

The Bucks are now 3-0 since interim head coach Joe Prunty took after Jason Kidd was fired last Monday.

Milwaukee faces Philadelphia at home Monday night in the second night of a back-to-back. The 76ers are also on a back-to-back, they lost to Oklahoma City 122-112 on Sunday evening.

Last shots: Bucks 116, Nets 91

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets 116-91 on Friday night in Milwaukee.

Eighteen last shots for Milwaukee’s 18 made free throws on Friday night.

1. The Bucks looked to be in a good place after getting a pair of practices in while not having a game since Monday. The time between games on the practice floor was able to help the team become adjusted to playing for interim head coach Joe Prunty.

2. The team is now 2-0 under Prunty’s lead, although both wins have come against two of the NBA’s worst teams. The Suns, whom the Bucks beat on Monday, are one of only six teams in the NBA that have a worse winning percentage than the Nets do. Brooklyn is now 18-31 and Phoenix is 17-32.

3. The Nets are bad. They may not be quite as bad as they have been in previous seasons, but they’re still bad. They opened up the game 1-11 from 3-point range, and not much of that was due to suffocating defense from Milwaukee. Brooklyn had open looks, they just couldn’t convert many of them.

4. The Bucks led at half 58-35. The Nets looked like they didn’t belong on an NBA floor in the first half. Part of the reason for that was the dominance of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He had 24 of his game-high 41 points before the break.

5. Antetokounmpo may have had his best game of the season on Friday night. He aside from the 41 points, he finished with 13 rebounds and seven assists. Antetokounmpo did so in roughly 33 minutes on the floor, which is four below his NBA-leading 37.4 minutes per game. He shot 14-20 from the field and was a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point range.

6. Friday marked the first time this season that Antetokounmpo was perfect in a game from behind the arc when attempting multiple 3-pointers.

7. The energy that Antetokounmpo brought to the game on Friday night was visible. It also was the first time that he played in eight games after missing Milwaukee’s previous two contests due to right knee soreness.

8. “Those eight days, they helped me a lot,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was able to reenergize, get my confidence up, and feel stronger.”

9. Antetokounmpo looked all of those things. He closed out the first half on a high note, with one of his most thunderous dunks to date. Friday night was the first time that Antetokounmpo scored more than 30 points since early January, a stretch of six games.

10. The third quarter was a rough patch for the Bucks. They were outscored by the Nets 37-23 in the period, their lead was cut to nine entering the fourth. In the third quarter Nets guard D’Angelo Russell had 10 points off the bench in just under five minutes. Guard Joe Harris added in eight, including a pair of 3-pointers early in the quarter.

11. The fourth quarter was the opposite, as the Bucks were able to re-distance themselves from the Nets. Antetokounmpo had 15 points in the fourth quarter alone. The Nets only had 19 points as a team.

12. Sterling Brown was the first player for the Bucks to emerge from the bench in the first quarter on Friday, despite a run-in with the law early on Friday morning.

13. Brown was arrested in Milwaukee over a dispute with police over a parking space. He allegedly resisted arrest and had a Taser administered on him.

14. Brown did have a couple of marks on his face, but did not want to comment on the matter.

15. “I mean, it’s a personal issue I’m dealing with right now. It’s being handled. I’d appreciate if y’all respect that right now.”

16. Brown played the most minutes of anyone on Milwaukee’s bench with 27. He finished with four points, nine rebounds, and an assist, but did struggle shooting. He was 1-of-7 from the floor.

17. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” said Brown when asked if his legal matter would affect his play on the court. “That’s working and the results are gonna show, you know. I’ve been working, I’ve been getting more minutes and I’ve been taking advantage of that. I don’t expect nothing to change so I’m going to keep going.”

18. The Bucks are back in action Sunday afternoon on the road against the Chicago Bulls. Chicago has won both meetings between the teams this year to date. The game is the front end of a back-to-back, with the Philadelphia 76ers in Milwaukee on Monday night.

Firing Jason Kidd was the right decision for Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks have underachieved their way through the first half of the 2017-18 NBA season. They’re currently 24-22 on the season and announced the firing of coach Jason Kidd on Monday.

Milwaukee has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that they placed upon themselves. This was supposed to be the year where the Bucks were supposed to improve upon their previous seasons and not only advance to the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2003-04, but win their first playoff series since the team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2001 playoffs.

The decision may have been a tough one to make for Milwaukee general management Jon Horst, mainly due to the loyalty All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown toward Kidd. Successful teams have had to make difficult decisions like this in the past.

For examples, one can point to the two teams that have dominated the NBA over the past three seasons. The Golden State Warriors fired coach Mark Jackson following his third season that saw his team win 51 games. In his first year, he only won 23 games, before more than doubling their win total to 46 victories in his second season. Golden State management didn’t feel the fit was right for the team, despite the success.

The Warriors inserted current coach Steve Kerr as his replacement prior to the 2014-15 season and since then they’ve gone 244-49 in the regular season, won the Western Conference three seasons in a row, and hoisted a pair of Larry O’Brien trophies. That was a tough decision to make, but it was the right one.

Flip back to the Eastern Conference and the Cleveland Cavaliers have also seen success after making a coaching change. The Cavs hired David Blatt as the coach in the summer of 2014, weeks before forward LeBron James returned to the team after spending four years in Miami as a member of the Heat.

It was evident from the start that the Cavaliers were not going to reach their potential with Blatt at the helm. He was fired in January of 2016, a year and a half into the job. Blatt had a record of 83-40 as a coach when he was fired. Management in Cleveland felt that he wasn’t the right fit for James and the rest of the Cavaliers. Coach Tyronn Lue replaced him on an interim basis and won the Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years five months into the job over Kerr’s Warriors in a thrilling 7-game series.

While those teams may not directly compare to the Bucks in terms of talent, the decisions made to compare. Milwaukee was underachieving with Kidd at the helm. The Bucks don’t have the perfect roster by any stretch of the imagination, but they do have a Antetokounmpo, who is regarded as arguably one of the NBA’s 10 best players, as well as Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and will have Jabari Parker again sometime soon.

Those players aren’t enough to win a championship in today’s NBA, at least not currently. That being said, those players are certainly enough to be better than a team fighting for a playoff spot.

Kidd wasn’t maximizing what Milwaukee has on the roster currently. With a player like Antetokounmpo the Bucks should be closer to fighting for the top playoff seed in the conference than the last one.

While Kidd was a tremendous player in his day, it was becoming more and more evident that he was nothing more than an average at best coach. He certainly made Milwaukee better in his first days on the job, elevating a 15-67 that he inherited to 41-41 and the playoffs in his first season deserves praise. With that, he deserves criticism for not growing beyond that. Failing to qualify for the playoffs the next season was a disappointment. Failing to win a playoff series last season should be looked at as underachieving, especially after leading the Toronto Raptors 2-1 in the series with Game 4 in Milwaukee.

The decision for Milwaukee may have been a tough one, but make no mistake, it was one that needed to be made. The Bucks did the right thing in firing Kidd. It became evident that the Bucks were not going to reach their peak and contend for championships under Kidd.

Now the search for a coach that can lead the franchise to its first championship since 1971 begins. The clock is ticking while Antetokounmpo is in town. There is no guarantee that he’ll be with the Bucks forever, just ask the Cavaliers about what it’s like to lose a once-in-a-generation talent without grabbing a title first.

That’s not a position that the Bucks want to be in, and the hiring of their next coach is one of the biggest decisions in the history of the franchise.

It’s the decision the Bucks must get correct if they want to have a legitimate championship window.

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.