A 12-point loss to the Denver Nuggets does not tell the whole story, as Milwaukee sported the energy of an exhumed corpse in this 110-98 waxing. Their entire night was devoid of pep, featuring an incredible inability to score against the league’s worst defense, while allowing the Nuggets to prospect the lane and three-point arc at their leisure. It was another alarmingly effortless defeat by a team whose performances are starting to resemble those gag-glasses with the hypnotic circular lenses.
Giannis Antetokounmpo again failed to satisfy Bucks’ fans in a dispiriting loss, ending with only 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Khris Middleton was the single glimmer of hope tonight, finishing at 21 points, five rebounds and five assists, with Greg Monroe putting forth a Twinkie box score with 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Matthew Dellavedova tried to make it close with a bevy of fourth-quarter baskets and reached 15 points in the process.
Nikola Jokic followed up last night’s triple-double with another tonight at 13 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. Danilo Gallinari provided a second scoring punch with 22 points and a five other Nuggets reached double digit scoring to flummox Milwaukee tonight.
There was little to enjoy, and Denver was drastically better than Milwaukee on both ends of the floor - an alarming trait given the Nuggets are the auspicious owners of the league’s worst defensive rating. The Nuggets shot 48.8% for the game to Milwaukee’s surprisingly decent 45.8%. As expected, Denver damaged Milwaukee on the glass, outrebounding them by 11 including 13 offensive rebounds in the second half alone after just one in the first half.
Denver started the contest by rushing off misses, often penetrating to the hoop and kicking out to open shooters before the Bucks defense could recover, and they opened up a 14-5 lead to start. Milwaukee’s first quarter woes continued, as they struggled to hit anything while the Nuggets sawed open a bigger lead. Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe forced tough shots at the rim, and Milwaukee had several open threes rattle out, but the quarter ended with Middleton losing the ball and Juancho Hernangomez flushing it home to put Denver up 32-15 after one. The fifteen points tied Milwaukee’s season low output after one quarter, and Milwaukee shot just 6-26.
Despite Khris Middleton forcing the ball into the hoop through sheer perseverance, Milwaukee’s descent only continued, as Denver leaped ahead 44-22 off poor defensive effort, lack of awareness and a general inability to stop any Nugget bringing the ball up. Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s “Wah-Wah” performance continued, and Denver’s ball movement found open shooters or open lanes to the hoop over and over. Giannis’ return to the game found him more aggressive than his first quarter stint, bullying his way to the hoop and dishing to a Henson trailing for a slam that made it 56-33. Milwaukee did little to stem the torrential tide though, and Denver went into halftime leading 63-37.
Giannis had eight points, albeit on nine shots, and Khris Middleton was the lone other bright spot with eight points. That’s about all the enthusiasm I can muster for the first half. The Nuggets picked away at Milwaukee’s defense, with Danilo Gallinari reaching 18 points, and Nikola Jokic reaching four points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the first half alone.
Denver shot 51.1% from the half, a dramatic difference from Milwaukee’s lackluster 30.6% shooting, including going just 2-8 from three. It was a battering in every sense of the word, and Milwaukee trailed in every significant statistical category.
Milwaukee switched up its starters for the second half, subbing in Jason Terry and John Henson for Rashad Vaughn and Thon Maker respectively. Giannis upped his usage from the outset, dribbling to the paint and finding Malcolm Brogdon and Jason Terry for three-pointers early in the half to bring Milwaukee within 20. However, that enthusiasm turned to carelessness, and Giannis’ patented spin move spun the ball right from his hands several times. Denver answered Milwakee’s mini run, winding up ahead 75-48 after a smooth Gary Harris three. Milwaukee responded with a spurt of their own, going on a 9-0 run at one point and trailing by only 20 after three.
With a little heart, and a lot of hustle, Milwaukee chipped away at Denver’s mountainous lead, with two Delly runners getting Milwaukee within 15 points early in the fourth. The Aussie made up for his oodles of missed shots over the past month in the quarter, reaching 13 points in the fourth alone as the Bucks trailed only 96-84 halfway through the period. Alas, his superhuman bouts of schoolyard ball proved not enough, and the Bucks mercifully ended an eye-piercing affair, falling 110-98.
- Adam Paris
- The lineup of youth was pretty short lived. Kidd quickly substituted the trio of Brogdon, Vaughn and Maker out and brought back the more traditional lineup of Dellavadova/Monroe/Snell/Middleton/Antetokounmpo just minutes into the game. So yeah, the experiment/apparent epiphany didn’t last too long and it became more evident as the night progressed.
- The 3-point ball caught the Bucks early on in the first quarter. In the first four minutes of action, Denver worked the ball around and found Danilo Gallinari a couple times from deep. Others eventually chipped in from deep as the first period went on, as the Bucks were just daring them to shoot with their uncontested defense. In the first half, Denver went a little over an even 50 percent from the floor and 7-of-18 from beyond the arc.
- Sure it can be frustrating to get blown out, but it’s even worse when it’s clear that nobody really tries. That was the case way too many times during the night with the Bucks just sleepwalking through the game. The rotation defense was weak around the perimeter, nobody put up a challenge in the paint and players were getting roasted in transition like a pig over an open fire. It was pretty pathetic to witness. Anytime you’re almost getting 30-balled on your home court at the break is embarrassing.
- Milwaukee opened up the second half with a lineup consisting of Terry/Brogdon/Snell/Henson/Antetokounmpo. I don’t really know to take away from this besides the fact that Kidd decided he must’ve had it with the young Buck lineup consisting of Vaughn and Maker. Sure, they may not have been producing at the rate one would hope, but development can be quite beneficial. I mean, it’s #OwnTheFuture, right? Furthermore, Maker and Vaughn went the entire second half without playing. I have a very tough time being okay with that, especially when the Bucks never even got close to making it a game. What do they have to lose?
- Similar to Phoenix’s color combo, I’m a fan of the Nuggets’ sky blue and gold. Although, I’m unsure if the current font works. Maybe tinker it with something more friendlier on the eyes and I’ll appreciate it even more. But boy, does that sky blue really pop.
- Giannis just wasn’t Giannis tonight. To begin the first five minutes of the second half, he tallied three quick turnovers. Just didn’t seem like himself at all. He didn’t make any large splashes in the scoring column either, finishing with 15 points and not even attempting a shot in the fourth quarter.
- At one point, the Nuggets had a possession with 12 passes. It didn’t result in a bucket, but it was still a masterpiece and entertaining to watch.
- Milwaukee eventually clawed their way back into the game, getting as close to 10 at times. It just made one scratch their head and wonder where that effort was in the first half. Unfortunately, the lead grew back north to where it was situated most of the night -- around the 20 point mark.
- Jason Kidd noted pre-game that he was going to boost Khris Middleton’s minutes pregame, trying to get him close to 30. He ended up finishing with that precise total on the night and made an impact in his time out there, closing the night out with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-3 from deep. If there’s one bright spot to tonight’s dumpster fire, it can be Khris Middleton playing like last year’s K-Midd.
- As for Jason Kidd, I’ve always been hesitant to discuss his potential future with the team. But after tonight’s lackadaisical and lethargic performance out on the court, it reminded me of something (non-baseball fans might not know what I’m talking about). Go back to the 2014 Brewers season and the beginning of the 2015 season. Yeah, the epic collapse. Why was Ron Roenicke fired? Because he failed to motivate his team to come out with a competitive edge. Just something to think about as we round the final corner of this Bucks season.
- Last but not least, a huge congratulations to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on being recognized for his Presidential Medal of Freedom. An absolute class guy and we’re lucky to have him as part of our team’s history.
- Gabe Stoltz