It was a familiar story for Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon in Miami. Another afternoon game, another lacklustre performance, as the Bucks fell 79-97 in an extremely disappointing performance.
Battling through the first half the Bucks were able to contain Miami on the defensive end and went in with a 2 point lead despite their own offensive struggles. After the halftime break however, Miami found their stroke and the Bucks woes deepened as the game began to slip away. Equalling a season low 79 points, the Bucks shot an embarrassing 31 percent from the field as the lid remained shut on the rim all night long. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe particularly struggled, combining for 32 points on 7-32 from the field and 1-14 from deep. If you’ve spent any time watching the Bucks this season you would know that contributions like that are only going to end badly.
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, their afternoon matinee woes may rear their ugly head yet again today as they face another extremely tough matchup in the Washington Wizards. The game is slated for a 1pm tip off and the well rested Wizards will be seeking revenge for a loss against the Bucks at home only last week. This will be Washington’s fifth straight game at home, their last outing being a 119-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Wizards now find themselves only 1.5 games out of the third seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Bucks have slipped back to 8th overall and only cling on to the last playoff spot by 1.5 games over Philadelphia.
The last outing between these two teams went down to the wire as the Bucks came up clutch down the stretch, Giannis and Bledsoe knocking down key shots to turn a 4 point deficit into a 7 point win in the last three minutes. Antetokounmpo knocked down two mid range jump shots, whilst Bledsoe buried a huge three to seal the victory, a much needed one for the Bucks.
Milwaukee’s big three combined for 75 points that night, whilst on the defensive end they managed to hold John Wall and Bradley Beal to 36 points on 12-38 shooting. Containing the two probable All-Star guards to similar output will be tough, but likely necessary if the Bucks want to stop their losing skid at two.
At the start of the season and certainly after the Bledsoe trade, imagining the Bucks would be sitting in the 8th seed by the middle of January would’ve seemed ridiculous. But nonetheless, here we are, the Bucks are sliding and the questions are mounting. Through the whole season Milwaukee have been able to deliver a marquee performance when you least expect it. It would be nice if this afternoon was one of those days.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Go To Bed Early: With the loss yesterday, Milwaukee’s record in afternoon games over the last three seasons dropped to 3-8. We know the Bucks players were caught out in LA two seasons ago until the early hours and perhaps a few of the guys may have done the same in South Beach Saturday night. It might be clutching at straws, but at this point, its hard to put your finger on why the Bucks have been so bad in matinee’s. Wide open look after wide open look clanged off the rim last night as the Bucks looked slow and sluggish from the get go. With the season trending in the wrong direction, it might be an idea for the players to have an early night and turn up ready to play this afternoon.
- New Year, No Khash: Across the board, Khris Middleton is averaging career highs in a number of categories. Yet for some reason, his 40 percent career shooting from beyond the arc has gone missing. Knocking down only 35 percent of his tries on the season, its been even worse since the turn of the New Year. So far in 2018, Middleton is 10-38 from three, 26 percent. Yikes. Middleton’s importance to the Bucks success remains sky high so they will be desperately hoping the slump is nearing an end. Milwaukee need him to get going.
- Second Unit Contribution: We’ve spoke about the struggles of the Bucks stars last night, but the reemergence of the bench struggles for Milwaukee was glossed over. Tony Snell, Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, Sean Kilpatrick and Sterling Brown played a combined 83 minutes yesterday against the Heat. In those minutes, they only registered 12 points on 3-16 shooting. The Bucks success largely rides on the shoulders of the Bucks top three players, but it makes it near on impossible to win with efforts like that from the bench. It’s been a problem all season but with a recent uptick in production, last night was disappointing. Increased output from the above mentioned players will be vital to the Bucks chances.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus