After a letdown against the Lakers, the Bucks knew that they needed to bring better energy against the Clippers in their second night in the Staples Center. They were able to keep Wednesday night's game closer, but ultimately couldn't pull out a victory, falling 103-90 to the Clippers.
The Bucks tried out a new starting lineup to try to mix it up a little bit and hopefully get a better performance on Wednesday, but the early returns were not promising. After 11 and a half minutes, the Bucks had kept the game close, but had a disastrous close to the first quarter, allowing the Clippers to score five points in 30 seconds to give the Clippers an eight point lead. The second quarter ended in a similar fashion with the Bucks drawing within five points before letting the Clippers take a ten point lead into the half on five unanswered points in the final minute of the half.
New half, same problem. This time, in the third quarter, the Bucks had cut the Clippers lead to six with just over a minute left in the half before Josh Smith canned two threes and gave the Clippers a 12 point lead. Early in the fourth quarter, the Bucks strung together a few ugly, but ultimately successful plays to trim the deficit to seven points. After another defensive stop, a crazy sequence with nine minutes left led to Michael Carter-Williams streaking to the basket for a easy lay-in, he missed it and the Bucks would never get closer than seven points away from the Clippers the rest of the night.
The Bucks were led in scoring on the night by two starters, Michael Carter-Williams and O.J. Mayo, who both scored 17 points on 18 shot attempts. Jabari Parker (14) and Khris Middleton (15) were also in double digits tonight. Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled coming off the bench tonight. He ultimately ended the night with nine points and 11 rebounds, but missed his first eight shots before perking up to score nine points on 4/4 shooting (including a corner 3) in the fourth.
For the second time this season, the Clippers' starters outplayed the Bucks starters. (The plus-minus of each group's starters once again tells the story.) Chris Paul put up 21 points, eight assists, and six rebounds, while his running mate Blake Griffin filled the stat sheet with 15 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
- A few hours before the game, Jason Kidd announced a brand new lineup for the night. The Bucks' starters were Michael Carter-Williams, O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, and Miles Plumlee. It was Plumlee's first start of the season and Carter-Williams' first start since November 27th against the Orlando Magic.
- The lights in the Staples Center malfunctioned two minutes into the game while Blake Griffin shot free throws. It was strange.
- Tyler Ennis saw some first quarter action tonight after not seeing anything beyond garbage time minutes for quite some time.
- During the second quarter, it looked like Lance Stephenson pushed Giannis Antetokounmpo when he scored on an offensive rebound. On the next possession, Jabari Parker attacked the basket and was fouled. While Antetokounmpo crashed the glass, Stephenson put his shoulder into Antetokounmpo and the two players went chest-to-chest as the two teams went to their respective benches.
- Lance Stephenson scored just four points in the first half, but he was able to get it going a little bit with a couple highlight assists among the four he threw in the first two quarters.
- DeAndre Jordan was ejected from the game with 6:49 left in the third quarter after colorfully complaining to official Mark Davis. The Bucks were down 14 at the time. They picked up just one point in the rest of the game with the Clippers unable to use Jordan.
- Middleton and Mayo each had six assists on the night.
- This was the Bucks' 11th straight road loss.
- Moving Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the starting lineup was a strange move. The other night I stood up for Kidd's move to stay with his plan to stagger Antetokounmpo and remove him early in the first quarter, despite a hot start against Toronto. Though I thought Antetokounmpo would handle the move a bit better, a move to the bench might not have been the best thing for Antetokounmpo's confidence, which seems to be shaken this month. He just didn't look right until the game was close to over and missed his first eight shots. In the fourth he finally got things going by backing the smaller Clippers down in the paint twice, driving once at Luc Mbah a Moute and hitting a corner three in front of the Clipper bench.
- Greg Monroe sat out again on Wednesday night and will also be out on Friday against the Warriors. Monroe has taken 13 shots per game on average and, while he remains inactive, those shots will be up for grabs. Literally, anybody on the team that wants to take them will have the chance to take them.
- The Clippers' bench is horrid, but both Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith made some big plays during their minutes on the floor tonight. Somehow, their plus-minuses were still -1 and -6 respectively. If you want to beat the Clippers, you have to destroy their bench. The Bucks didn't do that tonight.
- When Zach Lowe wrote about the Bucks last week, he talked about the struggles Parker and Carter-Williams have in trying to cover pick and rolls. The struggle is so incredibly real.
- I talked about it last night, but I have to address it again. I just can't comprehend why people continue to ask, "Why does MCW keep getting so many shots while Giannis doesn't get as many as he should?" Just watch the two players play. It's pretty simple. Carter-Williams jumps (literally) at the chance to take a shot once he gets below the free throw line. At times, it looks like Antetokounmpo won't take a shot unless it's under the rim. There are no orders from above for certain players to take certain shots. As we've discussed for much of the season, there isn't much of an offensive system. At this point, Carter-Williams is begging to take more shots, while Antetokounmpo seems to want nothing to do with more shots. That's the difference in their recent field goal attempt numbers.
- After the game, Coach Kidd and some of the analysts talked about a much improved effort from the Bucks on Wednesday night. I just don't know if I can agree with that. Sure, the scoreline was better, but I don't think the Bucks were actually any better against the Clippers than they were against the Lakers.