The Milwaukee Bucks grueling road trip came to an end with a whimper by losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 114-109. To add insult to injury, the Thunder was without both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and old pal George Hill. This is now three consecutive losses for Milwaukee.
What We Learned
I don’t care if this was the end of a 20-game road trip, the way the Bucks treated this game was laughable at best. They had no sense of urgency outside of beginning the game with a 13-3 run. After that, it was all OKC.
The Thunder were missing their best offensive players, and to be honest, without Shai and Hill it looked like they were running out a G-League level team. Nonetheless, they continued to outmuscle the Bucks by making the extra pass and being physical at the point of attack defensively. OKC finished with 32 assists on 45 made baskets which absolutely matched the eye test.
Brook Lopez was played off the court and last night was the worst he has looked in his entire Bucks tenure. He is far too slow to be relied upon to switch defensively and opposing teams are quickly figuring out what the Bucks are trying to accomplish on that end of the floor. After a brief stint in the third quarter, Brook didn’t play the rest of the game. He played 20 minutes and scored only two points while finishing minus-11. Granted, Milwaukee’s defense will always be much worse without Jrue Holiday, but even when he returns, what is the best-case scenario for Brook? He is too slow to switch and the drop coverage has already proven to be exploited too easily. In fact, he continuously left Al Horford open from the free-throw line and beyond while also getting blown by for a dunk in the second half. The Bucks have some decisions to make as the season goes along.
On the flip side, Bobby Portis played extremely well (again) offensively for Milwaukee. He poured in 21 points in 28 minutes off the bench and played an integral role in helping the Bucks claw their way back into the game. As well as he’s shot the ball, I am not sold that he is the answer to the Bucks’ defensive issues. He is still not a great interior defender. However, with the contributions he has given MKE offensively, it’s hard to keep him off the floor. His endless hustle has created a multitude of second chances for them this season and has already proven to be one of the best free-agent signings of the offseason.
Pat Connaughton and D.J. Augustin...oy vey! I mean, what much else is there to say? Both players have been unplayable for the last few weeks and if they are going to continue to fluctuate between being serviceable and unplayable, the Bucks are going to have some serious issues. The duo combined to score eight points on 3-of-11 shooting while combining to finish the loss minus-18. BIG yikes. The most frustrating aspect of Sunday’s loss was the unnecessary biting on pump fakes by Connaughton. I mean, you’re really biting on a fake from a player (Justin Jackson) that’s shooting 28.6% from deep?! UGH. On the other hand, if you were on a boat and gave Augustin a basketball, I am not sure he would hit the water. I think the Bucks might need some upgrades in the backcourt at the trade deadline or during the buy out season.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo played hot and cold in his 36 minutes of action. While he did finish with a 24/17/10 triple-double, it did come with some head-scratching decision making. On the defensive end, he lost his man multiple times by falling asleep of the ball which led to an abundance of open shots for OKC. Offensively, he took too many jumpers for my liking. If he could eliminate the foul line jumper after taking 10 crossover dribbles, that would be great. He is far from the reason the Bucks lost, though.
- Khris Middleton added 23 points and not much else in 35 foul-plagued minutes. The Bucks and head coach Mike Budenholzer used to be so great at getting Middleton involved in the action offensively early, but the lack of plays ran for him on Sunday was odd...to say the least. Middleton did finish with 22 field goal attempts but many of those came after he was sitting on the bench for a while with four fouls. He has been Milwaukee’s best player this season so there is no reason for Milwaukee not to force-feed him the ball.
- I thought both Bryn Forbes and Donte DiVincenzo did a great job at shaking off an awful first half to help the Bucks get back into the game. Forbes did the majority of his damage in the third quarter by hitting an array of jumpers and he ended with 14 points in 33 minutes. He was getting picked on defensively due to his lack of size, though. Donte did his part in the fourth offensively by hitting a handful of threes and even added a nifty foul line jumper off pick-and-roll action with Giannis. He contributed 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
- OKC’s starting five was much better than Milwaukee’s starting unit
- The Bucks shot only nine free throws...
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