As much as we don’t want to talk about it, we have to discuss the Milwaukee Bucks’ loss against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
To give them the benefit of the doubt, the Bucks were not only without their head coach Mike Budenholzer as he entered health and safety protocols. The team was also without Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton after they entered protocols, Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the game due to a non-COVID related illness, and Donte DiVincenzo is to miss some time due to a sprained ankle. Brook Lopez was of course also missing as he’s recovering from back surgery. For teams around the league, many of their athletes have been entering protocols, making it difficult for teams to succeed at 100%. However, just because the Bucks were without some key players, doesn’t give them an excuse to play the way they did on Wednesday.
Milwaukee was able to hold a 14-point lead in the second quarter, and it looked like they were going to come back and win. Nonetheless, they let the Raptors come back and steal that lead in the fourth. Milwaukee couldn’t seem to block in the zone, and weren’t able to make shots, and even though they tried to come back in the fourth, Toronto held on. The Raptors were able to secure a 117-111 victory over the Bucks, giving the team their second straight loss. Let’s take a look at some takeaways from that game.
Milwaukee’s bench offered some support, but they’ll be without a member in the near future.
Without Connaughton, Antetokounmpo, and Allen, the Bucks had to pull some players from the bench. The starting five last night included Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews, and Jordan Nwora. Nwora and Matthews proved to be helpful to that starting five, seeing as their offensive efforts were able to help out the team.
In 40 minutes of play, Nwora was able to score 17 points, 7-of-15 (46.7%) shooting, 3-of-9 from the three. He additionally had six rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Wesley Matthews played 28 minutes in the game and was 3-of-7 (42.9%) shooting from the field, 3-of-7 from the three, and tacked on four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Matthews only contributed nine points for Milwaukee.
We can’t go without giving DeMarcus Cousins some kudos for last night as well. Cousins tacked up 15 points and 10 rebounds, marking his second double-double of the season. Additionally, he had three steals and one block in 20 minutes of play. Though not a starter, Cousins was able to be a true offensive producer. Sadly, Wednesday night marked Cousins’ last night in Milwaukee, for right now. The team waived him after the game (literally, it was announced not even a minute after the game was over). No one expected this move to come, it came as a true surprise. The Athletic’s Shams Charania was first to report on this devastating news.
Without Cousins, many have started to assume that Brook Lopez is planning on returning. But, if that isn’t the case, maybe it means rookie Sandro Mamukelashvili will receive more playing time. Mamu was able to capitalize on his playing time, scoring 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting, assisted with five rebounds and two steals. In his 23 minutes of play, the Bucks were able to see how helpful Mamu will be to the court.
Khris Middleton gets out of a slump, but doesn’t get the proper credit in a defeat.
It looked to be a better night for Khris Middleton as he performed in a better groove compared to previous games throughout the season. Middleton was able to score 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. The 16 shot attempts was a low number compared to what we might see if Antetokounmpo were to be playing in a game. While Middleton tried to be more aggressive in his offensive production, it ultimately didn’t pay off as the Bucks lost their contest against Toronto. However, it did bring a little more promise that Khris Middleton is starting to come out of his shooting slump.
Even with Antetokounmpo sidelined, offensive production wasn’t up to par.
The two-time MVP Antetokounmpo was sidelined on Wednesday with a non-COVID related illness, so it was up to the other two of the big three to step up. Jrue Holiday so far has been able to show why he’s deserving of the all-star position. Pressure was put on Holiday to continue that amazing performance, especially with Antetokounmpo out of the game. It was the perfect time for Holiday and even Middleton to step up and show their all-star caliber. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out to play in that way.
On the court, Holiday’s offensive production was rather poor; Tallying 15 points and shooting 5-of-15 from the floor, it was a rather sloppy performance. It wasn’t too terrible from Holiday, however. He was able to help dish out 12 assists to give the Bucks some sort of offensive effort; Respectively, he also got three blocks and a steal. Hopefully this was just a fluke performance from Holiday and he’ll bounce back for the game on Friday.
The Bucks scored just 34 points in the second half, most of those happening within the last few minutes of the game. Comparatively, they were able to rack up 77 points in the first half, and that was without Giannis. It’s pretty obvious that offense isn’t the same without him on the floor, but they shouldn’t be relying on production from Giannis in order to win a game.
The game was disappointing to watch, we won’t deny that. However, the production from the team could’ve been better. Obviously, with key members not available to play, it’s going to hinder and hurt the team, that’s a given. Remaining optimistic that Giannis makes a return for the game on Friday against the Nets. It’s scheduled to be a huge match-up as the Nets will have Kyrie Irving on the court, so having Giannis back will be crucial if they want to have a successful night.
The Bucks face the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, which you can catch on TNT starting at 6:30 p.m. CST.