After losing to the Houston Rockets on Sunday night, the Milwaukee Bucks can take away a few lessons that could enhance their execution moving forward.
In their second game of the NBA restart in Orlando, the Milwaukee Bucks suffered an unfortunate 120-116 loss to the Houston Rockets in a thrilling matchup. It was one of those games that went back and forth in the clutch moments, but the Bucks ultimately came out on the losing end.
Milwaukee led by as many as 13 points throughout the game and led by eight with about three minutes remaining before Houston would go on a 9-0 run and take the lead with about a minute and a half to play. The Bucks had many chances to close out the game, but the Rockets resiliently performed in the clutch by making key free throws and defending brilliantly.
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Although Houston played well down the stretch, the Milwaukee Bucks mostly beat themselves and shouldn’t have blown their comfortable lead in crunch time. They really should’ve won the game with their high expectations, but poor communication and execution were detrimental toward the loss.
The Bucks committed a total of 23 turnovers during the defeat, including two back-to-back turnovers that resulted in easy transition buckets for Houston during their 9-0 run near the conclusion of the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee’s costly turnovers were mostly due to simple mistakes and sloppy decision-making of their own. Donte DiVincenzo, George Hill, and Khris Middleton had their turnover struggles Sunday night, while the league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo turned it over on a crucial possession that could have given the Bucks the lead with under a minute remaining.
In addition, the execution could have been much better throughout the disappointing loss, but especially in the concluding moments of the game. Milwaukee can certainly learn from the mistakes they continuously made during the contest and can utilize them to establish better communication and execution moving forward.
In the Milwaukee Bucks’ postgame press conference, Giannis stated:
“We learned from this. It’s good to play close games. We don’t play a lot of close games in the other 65. The important thing is to get shots. We can’t turn the ball over.”
The Bucks currently lead the NBA in point differential since they have defeated opponents by an average of 11.0 points per game so far this season, so you can see where Giannis is coming from regarding his postgame statement. They’ve simply been a dominant team on both ends of the floor, but as Antetokounmpo mentioned, they haven’t had much experience with close game situations.
“Usually when we’re up six minutes to go, we usually close the game out. But we didn’t do that today, so we’ve got to learn from it and got to keep moving.”
Antetokounmpo had an incredible display against the Rockets, dropping 36 points, 18 rebounds, and 8 assists, but knows that they missed a great opportunity to win and will have to learn from it.
Bucks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer added:
“I think our execution, our certainty in what we wanted to do wasn’t where it needs to be and that starts with me. So, I think a lot of tonight’s on me.”
Budenholzer drew up some creative offensive plays in the clutch with under a minute remaining, but they just weren’t executed well enough, which led to inefficient shot attempts and the agony of defeat.
When the Bucks were down three coming out of a timeout with not much time left on the clock, coach Bud utilized an excellent play that would have given Khris Middleton a wide-open 3-point attempt to tie the game. However, Brook Lopez missed the opportunity to set the screen on Middleton’s defender that would have left him open. As a result, Middleton had to settle with a highly contested jumper from beyond the arc that obviously missed.
Execution, along with communication, let the Bucks down in the end. Budenholzer and the coaching staff will continue to draw up potential game-clinching plays in clutch situations, but the Milwaukee Bucks just need to execute them better as a team. Sunday night’s game against the Rockets was evident of that, and they can use those simple mistakes to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the near future when it matters most.
Luckily for Milwaukee, the loss to Houston seems to be meaningless since they have already locked up the East’s No. 1 seed for the most part. They also didn’t have starting point guard Eric Bledsoe or rotation piece Pat Connaughton available for the game due to conditioning.
The Bucks can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, and will also hope to have both Bledsoe and Connaughton back after recovering from their recent bouts with COVID-19.
Despite their 13th loss of the season, the Milwaukee Bucks will continue to learn from their costly mistakes and improve upon them throughout the pursuit of their second NBA championship in franchise history.