"The game against Golden State is going to be really tough, but the rest of the road trip doesn't look bad at all. Should be a good chance to get everybody back on track."
We were so young.
Milwaukee's post-All-Star slump continued Saturday night in Salt Lake City as the Bucks fell to the Utah Jazz 75-82. It was Milwaukee's fourth loss in their last five games. The Bucks turned the ball over 23 times and shot under 40%. The Jazz actually matched each of those numbers, but managed a six-point advantaged at the free-throw line to help them get the win.
Trey Burke was the star of the show for Utah, scoring 23 points off the bench and draining five shots from behind the arc. Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors put in strong performances as well, each tallying double-doubles and a trio of blocked shots.
Milwaukee was led by Khris Middleton's 18 points while Michael Carter-Williams had 16. MCW also had three assists, five rebounds, and four steals. Every Milwaukee starter except Ersan Ilyasova had three turnovers. Zaza Pachulia shot 1-8 from the floor.
It was about as ugly a first half on offense as could be imagined. The Bucks looked totally helpless in the halfcourt, unable to create any decent shots or even more the ball effectively. There was a lot of standing around while ball-handlers dribbled into screens then charged into the waiting arms of three Utah defenders. Challenges of Rudy Gobert were rejected. Spin moves in the lane were contested. Passes under the basket were intercepted. Nothing seemed to work.
That the Bucks had a hard time scoring wasn't shocking. The offense has looked generally out of sorts since Brandon Knight was traded to Phoenix. But the lack of creativity was discouraging, as the Bucks mostly tried the same things over and over again, just with different guys holding the ball. Middleton tallied a decent first-half total on a few catch-and-shoot jumpers and transition baskets, but that's nothing new. Who knows if it would have worked, but the Bucks need to at least be comfortable putting the ball in Michael Carter-Williams' hands, flanking him with shooters or ancillary playmakers, and seeing what he can. Even more curious? Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't attempt a shot in the first half. In fairness, he gave up a couple of possible attempts in favor of dump-off passes, but with the Bucks shooting so poorly overall, what could it have hurt giving it a go himself?
Milwaukee looked a lot more focused and deliberate after halftime, though the execution still left something to be desired. Passes went to the right guys at the right times, but too often the were directed at ankles and outstretched arms. The Jazz defense, normally nothing to write home about, deserves credit for disrupting passing lanes and relentlessly pressuring. After holding Utah to just 11 points in the third quarter, it looked like the Bucks would be able to turn things around, but they never managed to get over the hump from "challenging" to "in control."
Giannis was never able to get in gear. He scored all his points in the paint, but "all his points" tonight was 8. Again, he was definitely in pass-first mode in the first half, and he did chip in 5 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals, and a block, but the Bucks needed somebody to exploit a matchup or something, anything to spark the offense tonight.
The Bucks' next shot at their first win on the road trip comes in Denver Tuesday night.