The Milwaukee Bucks lost all four of their games over the last week, with only one of them even being close. The Bucks were hammered by the defending champion Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena to start the week, lost a nail-biter to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center, were absolutely annihilated by the unbeaten Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and closed the week by returning to the BMO Harris Bradley Center and falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That leaves the Bucks 2-7 with a five-game losing streak. Center Larry Sanders is still out for another three to five weeks after surgery on his thumb, point guard Brandon Knight is back on the shelf with a bad hamstring, forward Caron Butler has missed the last two games with a sprained shoulder and Ersan Ilyasova missed the whole week with a sprained ankle and is out indefinitely. The one piece of good news is that Luke Ridnour, who missed the first seven games with back spasms, returned for the Indiana game.
The Week That Was
Miami Heat—Tuesday, Nov. 12 (American Airlines Arena, Miami)
The Bucks, with a completely revamped roster, returned to South Beach for the first time since being swept by the Heat in the first round of the playoffs last spring. New faces, same result. Milwaukee had taken one of four in the regular season last year, but lost both games in Miami by double digits.
The Heat took a 32-23 lead through one quarter behind 10 points from Mario Chalmers, nine for LeBron James and six for Shane Battier. O.J. Mayo had six in the period for the Bucks and Nate Wolters tossed in five points. Miami was 12-for-20 from the floor to just 7-for-18 for Milwaukee and the Heat also went to the line 12 times in the quarter as Khris Middleton and Brandon Knight picked up two quick fouls each.
The Heat extended their lead to 56-45 at halftime, cooling off a bit in the second period down to 10-for-19, but hitting 3-of-5 from deep. The Bucks continued to struggle to score the ball, going 8-for-22 in the period. James carried the load for the Heat with seven points, finishing the half with 16. Caron Butler scored six—including a pair of 3-balls—to try to keep Milwaukee in it and Ekpe Udoh scored five in the period. Wolters had three steals in the period as the Heat got a bit sloppy with seven turnovers.
But shooting told the tale of the first half—Miami was 22-for-39 (56.4 percent) while the Bucks were a frigid 15-for-40 (37.5 percent).
James did his best work in the third period as Miami put the game away. The reigning MVP scored 17 points—including 4-of-7 from 3-point land—in the third period as the Heat blitzed the Bucks to take an 84-62 lead into the final period. Chris Bosh added seven—as if James needed help—while John Henson scored six for the Bucks in the period. How bad was the mismatch? James’ 17 points matched the Bucks’ entire output for the quarter. Miami was 9-for-17 for the quarter while the Bucks were 6-for-20 and missed all eight attempts from long range.
In garbage time in the fourth quarter, Gary Neal heated up for Milwaukee, scoring 15 points in the period as defense pretty much stopped being a thing over the final 12 minutes. The Bucks padded the stats to the tune of 12-for-19 shooting, while Miami was even hotter at 15-for-23. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored eight in the period for the Bucks and Henson had six. Michael Beasley poured in 12 points in the period for the Heat, Chris Andersen had eight to go with four rebounds and Norris Cole added seven.
The Heat outscored the Bucks in the paint by a 56-30 margin and forced 18 Milwaukee turnovers. James played only 30 minutes and sat the entire fourth period, but finished with 33 points. Beasley had 19, Chalmers finished with 15 and seven assists and Bosh scored 10. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with eight rebounds.
Henson and Neal led the Bucks off the bench with 18 points each and Antetokounmpo had 11. The only starter in double figures was Butler with 10 points. The Bucks even suffered the ignominy of being outrebounded by Miami 40-35; Khris Middleton led the Bucks with seven boards. Knight handed out six assists in 24 minutes off the bench. In the end, the Heat rolled 118-95.
Orlando Magic—Wednesday, Nov. 13 (Amway Center, Orlando)
Coach Larry Drew shuffled the starting lineup, inserting Ekpe Udoh at center and sitting Zaza Pachulia. The Bucks seized control early, roaring out to a 36-23 lead in the first period behind 12 points from Caron Butler and 10 from O.J. Mayo. The Bucks outrebounded the Magic and shot 14-for-24 to just 9-for-23 for the Magic, who got six points off the bench from Kyle O’Quinn. The Bucks cooled off considerably in the second period, going 6-for-17, but Orlando still wasn’t shooting straight at 8-for-19 as they got the lead inside double digits by halftime, 54-45. Khris Middleton had six points in the quarter for the Bucks and 12 in the half. Jameer Nelson scored six for the Magic in the second quarter, while Nikola Vucevic was their leading scorer in the half with nine points.
Orlando roared to life in the third quarter, hitting 10-of-23 shots, forcing five Milwaukee turnovers and cutting the Bucks’ lead to 74-72. Arron Afflalo hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range for 15 points in the period. Mayo tried to keep pace, scoring nine points for Milwaukee. Afflalo continued to sizzle in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points, and he helped set up the game-clinching sequence. He found an opening through a mass of defenders to hit Vucevic for a dunk with nine seconds left. Afflalo sealed it on the defensive end, picking off a pass from Mayo with a second left.
Afflalo had 29 of his game-high 36 points in the second half and was 8-for-11 from distance for the night. Vucevic had his usual double-double with 17 points and 11 boards. Mayo led the Bucks with 25 points, but turned the ball over six times. Butler had 20 and Middleton scored 19. John Henson had a big night off the bench with 10 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots in 27 minutes as Milwaukee only played eight. The depth might have been the difference as four Bucks logged at least 40 minutes. Magic win 94-91.
Indiana Pacers—Friday, Nov. 15 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Another night, another lineup for the Bucks. With Butler out with a sprained shoulder, Pachulia was reinserted into the lineup with Khris Middleton moving to the small forward spot. Luke Ridnour did return for Milwaukee, as well, after missing seven games.
The Bucks grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the first period—the problem was they couldn’t make a shot, hitting just 9-of-27 as the Pacers grabbed a quick 10-point lead. Roy Hibbert established his low-post dominance early, picking up two fouls on Ekpe Udoh in just more than two minutes while scoring 10 points and blocking four shots on the other end. O.J. Mayo scored eight for the Bucks, who trailed 31-21 after one period. It got worse for Milwaukee in the second, as they were just 7-for-26 from the floor in the second quarter and Indiana built a 52-37 halftime edge. The Pacers were workmanlike in the second, with seven players scoring—none more than four points—in the quarter. Nate Wolters scored six points for the Bucks, who had just 16 in the 12 minutes.
Milwaukee hung around in the third period, finally getting something to drop—but it’s telling when 8-for-19 is a huge improvement. Mayo scored seven as the Bucks trimmed Indiana’s lead to 14 at 75-61, while Paul George emerged after a quiet first half with 10 points in the third for the Pacers. Then the roof caved in in the fourth quarter for Milwaukee. George scored seven points and the Pacer bench added 18 in the quarter, while the Bucks managed just 16 points and turned the ball over seven times.
Hibbert finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots for Indiana, while George scored 17 of his 22 points after halftime. Mayo led the Bucks, who were just 30-for-88 (34.1 percent) for the game, with 20 points. Pachulia had 11 rebounds, nine on the offensive end, but was a horrific 2-for-14 from the floor. Pacers 104, Bucks 77, but at least the road trip was over.
Oklahoma City Thunder—Saturday, Nov. 16 (BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee)
The battered Bucks returned home to greet the Thunder, who were coming off a nationally televised heart-breaker on Thursday night, when they lost at Golden State on an Andre Iguodala buzzer-beater.
The teams played an even first quarter, with Ekpe Udoh scoring seven points for the Bucks and Serge Ibaka leading the Thunder with six in a 23-23 draw. The Bucks held Oklahoma City to 8-of-22 shooting in the first period while making 10-of-24 on their end. The teams then put on an impressive display of shooting futility in the second quarter—OKC was 7-for-26, Milwaukee was 7-for-22—as they slogged to the half tied 40-40. Russell Westbrook scored six points for the Thunder in the period and led Oklahoma City with 11 in the first half, while Ibaka piled up 10 rebounds before intermission (but, hey, there were a lot of misses to run down—the teams combined to go 32-for-94 in the first half). Udoh led Milwaukee at the break with 10 points.
Westbrook and Kevin Durant heated up in the third quarter as the Thunder began to pull away. Westbrook scored 11 points and Durant hit all three of his field-goal attempts and scored 10 points as Oklahoma City opened a 72-65 lead after three quarters. The Thunder were 11-for-16 in the period. O.J. Mayo nailed all three of his triple tries and scored 11 for the Bucks in the third. The pace bogged down again in the fourth. Oklahoma City never really did anything spectacular to put the game away, going 8-for-18 and scoring 20 points, but Milwaukee was just 4-for-18 in the period.
Westbrook finished with 26 points for the Thunder, while Durant added 24. Ibaka stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 15 points, 20 rebounds (which matched a career-high) and four blocks. For Milwaukee, Mayo had 22 points on an inefficient 7-for-19 night and Khris Middleton added 14, but needed 14 shots to do it. Ekpe Udoh had a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards and Zaza Pachulia had 13 rebounds, but was just 3-for-13 from the floor—making him 5-for-27 in his last two games. The Thunder cruised, 92-79.
Big Bucks and Deer Droppings
Here’s what went well and what didn’t over the last week for the Bucks:
- John Henson is proving to be an efficient finisher—the only Milwaukee player with significant playing time who shot better than 50 percent on the week. Henson shot 54.1 percent (20-for-37) and blocked 10 shots.
- The Bucks are proving to be a good free-throw shooting team, hitting 84.1 percent for the week (58-for-69). The problem is getting to the line—their opponents only hit 72 percent, but had almost as many makes (67) and the Bucks did attempts (69). The differential for the week was 93-69. Zaza Pachulia led Milwaukee by drawing nine personal fouls, despite not playing in one of the four games.
- O.J. Mayo is proving to be an efficient sniper from 3-point range, hitting 11-of-22 last week. He’s hit 53.3 percent of his 3-balls for the season (24-for-45), light years ahead of last year’s career-high percentage of 40.7. Something screams small sample size here, but he’s also averaging a career-best five attempts per game and making more than 50 percent of them.
- The Bucks shot 38.5 percent as a team in four games last week, averaged just 85.5 points per game and were outscored by an average of 16.5 points a night, while averaging 16.8 assists and 17.3 turnovers. Opponents averaged 102 points a game, shot 48.1 percent and averaged 20 assists and 14 turnovers.
- Zaza Pachulia shot 19.4 percent in three games (6-for-31). The numbers were bad no matter how they were sliced—4-for-18 inside of five feet. Let me write that again—4-for-18 inside of five feet. But at least he was 2-for-13 from everywhere else, so there’s that.
- O.J. Mayo’s 3-point shooting prowess is great and all, but inside the arc Mayo hit just 15-of-42 (35.7 percent), which is an indicator he’s having trouble generating his own offense. Mayo was 6-for-12 at or near the rim, 11-for-22 from 3 … and 9-for-30 everywhere else. Contested mid-range shots will drive coaches crazy, yo. And with seven assists in four games, he’s beginning to enter the Carmelo Anthony zone.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Alphabet continues to be a dazzling mix of mind-blowing highlights and mind-boggling decisions. For the week, Antetokounmpo was 8-for-15 from the floor (4-for-8 from deep) and averaged 17 minutes a game, with six points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 turnovers. Bearing in mind he’s an undersized 18-year-old, though, when his body and knowledge base catches up to his athletic ability, the Greek Freak is going to be scary, scary, scary good.
Miroslav Raduljica: The 25-year-old Serbian got off the bench for the first time this week, playing in three of the Bucks’ four games. He played 36 minutes, was 1-for-3 from the floor, snagged eight rebounds and scored six points. He also blocked a couple of shots and handed out a couple of assists. Like so many European bigs, Raduljica is very mechanical and can appear to be lumbering at times, but at 7-feet and 250 pounds, he could be a solid rotation guy.
Nate Wolters: The point guard by default is continuing to be good with the ball (five total turnovers in 31.5 minutes a game last week), but his assist total dropped to 3.8 per game this week—in part because the Bucks couldn’t finish at all. Of course, neither could Wolters. He shot 37.8 percent and averaged 8.3 points per game last week. Still, he boasted one of the best defensive ratings on the club last week (96.3 points per 100 possessions, second on the team to Pachulia’s 96.1). He’s been solid and, in the absence of Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour for long stretches, an absolute life saver. As bad as the Bucks’ start has been, imagine it with Gary Neal trying to run the offense.
Weekly Stat Rankings
Here’s where the Bucks stacked up last week in some key statistical areas:
PPG: 85.5 (29th)
RPG: 41.3 (18th)
APG: 16.8 (28th)
SPG: 7.3 (t-16th)
BPG: 6.0 (t-7th)
FG%: 38.5 (28th)
3PT%: 39.5 (8th)
FT%: 84.1 (3rd)
O-RTG: 89.9 (30th)
D-RTG: 107.4 (t-24th)
TS%: 47.9 (28th)
Player of the Week
John Henson made a difference in limited action last week. He averaged just 24.3 minutes a game, but came up with 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting 54.1 percent and given how ineffective Ekpe Udoh and Zaza Pachulia were last week, it’s hard to imagine Henson remaining on the bench for long if he continues to produce at this level.
Coming Up Next
Nov. 20: Portland Trail Blazers (HMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee)
Nov. 22: Philadelphia 76ers (Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia)
Nov. 23: Charlotte Bobcats (HMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee)