The latest in a string of disappointing performances from Milwaukee came in a 120-127 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Furthering the horror night, was an ankle injury to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who left the game with four minutes remaining in the first half and never returned.
Looking to resolve their first quarter issues of late, the Bucks replaced Tony Snell in the starting lineup with Jason Terry. Unfortunately the move didn’t alter the Bucks early game woes, as they gave up 38 points in the first period, to fall behind as many as 16 points. DeAndre Jordan racked up a 14 point, 10 rebound double-double in 11 minutes, and Milwaukee were once again playing catch up throughout. A late comeback fell short once again, and the Bucks dropped their 9th game in their last 13.
They now travel down the I-95 to face the Chicago Bulls, in what will be the two teams fourth and final meeting of the season. Chicago have lost three straight, their last two coming at a combined 51 points. They currently find themselves in the position that would land them the eighth best odds in the NBA draft lottery, 5.5 games ahead of the last placed Phoenix Suns. They have been plucky at times this season, with their young core looking much better then anticipated, led by rookie Lauri Markkannen.
Giannis is listed as doubtful to suit up tonight in what would be a monumental blow to a Milwaukee team desperate to get back on track. You can expect the Bucks will leave it as long as possible before declaring his status either way, but with the playoffs on the horizon, you would expect them to err on the side of caution.
So far this season, the Bulls have beaten the Bucks twice at the Bradley Center, while Milwaukee took the road contest in Chicago. A large contingent of Milwaukee fans were present at the United Center last time, ‘let’s go Bucks’ chants were clearly audible as Milwaukee cruised to a 110-96 victory. Slumping since the All-Star break, it remains to be seen how many Milwaukee fans will make the trip to Chicago this time round.
A positive to be taken from the loss was the season high 20 points Jabari Parker poured in, on an also season high 30 minutes of court time. Parker also added six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, in a solid all-round performance. Parker started the second half in place of Antetokounmpo and he would appear in line to start his first contest since returning to the court on February 2nd.
No doubt about it, this is a must win, with or without Giannis, the Bucks need to respond.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Sort out the start: This will continue to be a key to victory until the Bucks figure it out. Consistently playing from behind since the All-Star break, Milwaukee are running out of ways to battle back into contests. It starts on the defensive end, as their porous interior defense is allowing buckets at will. The Bulls do not possess a DeAndre Jordan type presence in the paint, but as we know full well, the Bucks have not discriminated against any level of player dominating them down low. Playing from behind yet again, will not be acceptable, and it’s time this team showed some resolve out the gate.
- Put the skids on Bobby: Bobby Portis has been a bright spot in a long season for Chicago. Averaging 13.3 points and 6.8 rebounds over the season, Portis has been even better over the last two months. Across February and March so far, Portis is accumulating 15.7 points per game, whilst reeling in 7.8 boards a game. He’s physical, will battle for rebounds, and as 35 percent three-point shooter, is not afraid to launch from beyond the arc. Typically, players with those traits give the Bucks fits. Portis had 27 points and 12 rebounds in the Bulls first win at the Bradley Center this season, the Bucks will need to be wary of letting him loose once more.
- Start Jabari: With Giannis doubtful to play, it’s time for the Bucks to unleash Jabari Parker. Parker hasn’t started an NBA game since he tore his ACL for the second time in February 2017. Tonight, he looks set to return to the starting group. Coming off a season high in minutes and points, Parker will be full of confidence, and what better time then now to strike while the irons hot. The Bucks are slumping, and they need a spark, Parker looks set to be the man to deliver that spark.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus