It is one thing to lose a game, and it is another to lose it and do it without entertaining the folks at home — the Milwaukee Bucks achieved both last night in their 100-118 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
For those who watched Wednesday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, you’d have not been incorrect to feel that the start of this game was like picking up where the team left off. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was good for 26 points (9-13 from the floor), 13 rebounds, and 7 assists, was in attack mode early on while guys not named Brook Lopez struggled to add much. The Nets took advantage of size and speed mismatches on defense to create easy looks from three and shot 6-7 from distance backed by a pair of vintage Kevin Durant jumpers. Jrue Holiday, tasked with guarding KD, began the game 0-5 from the floor before waking up and hitting a tough shot or three:
Jrue Holiday TOUGH fadeaway over KD behind the backboard pic.twitter.com/aDXbdSmSrt— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 24, 2022
A 29-36 deficit did not look insurmountable after a quarter, but then Milwaukee’s offense flickered on and off like an old modem. During a stretch where the Bucks had three cracks at narrowing Brooklyn’s lead down to single digits, Jrue Holiday turned it over three times — twice extremely poor passing decisions, the third a befuddling moment where just lobbed the ball out of bounds and was called for an offensive foul. Milwaukee would turn it over seven times in the second quarter and made just 1-7 of their three point attempts, all while scoring a total of three points in the final 4:42 of play. Meanwhile, Nic Claxton and TJ Warren took turns playing my turn, you're turn getting all combined seven of their shot attempts to go in on the way to a 47-60 lead over Milwaukee.
That same offensive drought simply continued into the second half. Brooklyn would push their lead out to 23 points with the Bucks managing a mere seven points in the first six minutes of play in the third. Inexplicably, Bobby Portis arrived to help break the fever with a quick succession of baskets to more or less reel the Nets back to within 14.
Giannis and Jrue then paced the team to a manageable 10 point gap heading into the fourth quarter, but the sheer ability to create and make good looks from Brooklyn proved too much. Brook Lopez ripped off 12 points to give Milwaukee a chance, and MarJon Beauchamp was good for a timely three, but Jevon Carter’s two ill-timed giveaways helped sink any early momentum as Kyrie Irving generated 14 points and two assists to push things finally out of reach.
Bucks lose 100-118.
In honor of the team going a combined 9-37 from three and so never presenting any sort of real comeback threat to the Nets, here are three guys who went out there and combined to shoot 0-13 from distance.
Jevon Carter - 0 for 6
Joe Ingles - 0 for 4
Bobby Portis - 0 for 3
I would not be surprised if all 13 of those attempts go down as “open” or “wide open” in the NBA’s metrics. Joe Ingles has the excuse of being old as sin and newly returned to the court from a serious injury and rehab schedule. Jevon’s misses came at about the worst time possible and are extra painful for that. Bobby is fresh off a summer spent working on “speeding up his release” with a “Shot Doctor” and has now slumped to a near-career-worst 30.8% from three all while sporting a release that looks even slower to my layman’s eyes.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Giannis efficient, but tired felt like the proper conclusion watching this one. Claxton is a good springy defender, but he still looks like he gives up 50 pounds of muscle to Giannis, and we don’t need to revisit the long storied history of what Giannis has done to Ben Simmons to know that matchup is favorable. However, we’re really stuck in the groove of Giannis lowering his shoulder and both punishing and being punished creating offensive looks for himself. That 31.4 point per game average looks nice as a headline number, but his usage rate feels like it will inevitably wear him down if left unaddressed.
- A little more on Brooklyn’s defense: Claxton is lanky, athletic, and happy to muck it up through contact to knock opponents off their game, and while Giannis was able to get whatever he wanted offensively when he chose to, it clearly took a lot of effort to finally get to his spots in large part thanks to Claxton and a swarming Nets defense that just stopped running out to Bucks shooters. Against all expectations, Brooklyn has climbed to a top-half defensive rating and you can see glimpses of how.
- It has been the opposite of a poster week for Jrue Holiday. He’s been asked to guard Zion Williamson, Donovan Mitchell, and Kevin Durant the past three games, has seen his turnover number climb from three to four to five last night, and just isn’t finding the right range on his shot attempts. The defensive skill and physicality is all there, but the toll it takes on him might be showing a bit these past few games in particular. Offensively, he is simply not sharp enough. 18 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 5 turnovers for him.
- You know who has had a solid week? Brook Lopez! I’m doubtful any Buck will seriously be in the running as Milwaukee’s second All-Star this year, but we can toss Brook in the conversation. He finished the night with 23 points (10-16) and 5 rebounds making this his eighth game of the year scoring at least 20 points. More than he had all of last season! Wow!
- Jevon Carter continues to see his stock decline somewhat more rapidly than I’d have guessed. Maybe, just maybe, his hitting 95% from the floor to start the year was never going to be sustainable. 2-10 shooting and three turnovers is another indication we’ve likely already seen Carter’s peak in his current role as sometime primary ball-handler.
- Pat Connaughton had a nifty athleticism moment leaping up to swat away a transition lob attempt by TJ Warren to Yuta Watanabe. While Pat isn’t yet translating into point output, he still retains the little stuff that make him helpful all over the court (tapping loose balls to teammates for rebounds, driving in the paint, leaping closeouts, etc.).
- Grayson Allen registered three points, five rebounds, and a -30 which would be notable if the other starters weren’t right there with him in +/- hell.
- Thanasis played and got two steals. His attempt at a transition pass to MarJon in the corner was worth the (measly) price of admission.
Bucks are back at it Sunday for Christmas Day action as they wrap up this road trip playing the Boston Celtics!