MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks hosted the Phoenix Suns on Saturday morning. The game loomed as an easy grab for the Bucks, who were running with a 9-1 home record, against a Suns team that had one of the worst net ratings in the league. It was anything but that.
Post-game, Khris Middleton was asked what went wrong.
"Everything," he responded.
The Bucks took three and a half quarters to gain a six-point lead, with 3:24 left in the contest. Unfortunately for the Bucks, they failed to score for the rest of the game, leaving Jamal Crawford to bury a mid-range jumper with 0.8 seconds left on the clock.
Milwaukee broke the attendance record for the second straight game, with standing room only tickets being released on the day of the game. The record crowd of 17,852 filed out of Fiserv Forum in silence, following the home loss.
With the starting group struggling to get going, Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer brought in a full bench unit --a rare occurrence-- that resulted in Matthew Dellavedova earning his first meaningful minutes of the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo eventually joined the rest of the second unit, and they rattled off an 11-0 run to close the third quarter, trailing only by just one.
Speaking after the game, Budenholzer said the line-up change wasn’t as much a message to his star players, it was instead a way of searching for the spark.
“We’re in a little bit of a tough stretch of games here, a lot of games and the holiday,” Budenholzer explained. “Sometimes there’s nights where you need a spark off the bench, it wasn’t sending a message or anything like that. I thought Delly could give us a spark, just a gut-feel, Pat [Connaughton] and Tony [Snell] have been good together and you know, just get some energy.”
Dellavedova would play six minutes all up, failing to get a shot off, but assisting on two Milwaukee buckets.
Thon Maker only saw eight minutes of court time on the night, but did have one moment, gathering a strong offensive rebound before swishing a nice hook shot. Speaking before the game, Budenholzer gave his thoughts on Maker’s recent play, following John Henson's long-term wrist injury.
“[There’s been] a lot of positives. I think the energy he brings, just the way he’s played. His shooting is something that’s going to get even better, [though] it’s been pretty good so far. His confidence letting it fly and ability to change shots, block shots and rebound.
"I think just better understanding of the way we want to play, but for the most part, I think there’s been a lot of positives.”
The Bucks won't have long to wait before getting a chance to avenge the loss, with Patty Mills and the San Antonio Spurs visiting Milwaukee tomorrow. The Spurs will come in full of confidence on the back of their 111-100 victory in Indiana today. Mills tallied 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting for the Spurs, who improved their record to 9-9 on the year.
It was deathly quiet in the Bucks locker room post-game, with the players largely sitting in silence.
On the positive side, rebounding from losses has been a strong suit, with Milwaukee winning all four outings by an average of 21 points. Antetokounmpo spoke on the reasons why they have been able to rebound so quickly.
“It’s not something we talk to one another about, we’re just a winning team now,” Antetokounmpo said. “We don’t like losing and tomorrow we’ll come out here and try and get a win. We could’ve made it a lot easier for ourselves if we win this game today, but we played around with this game and weren’t able to do our job tonight. We’ll look to come out tomorrow and get it done.”
The Milwaukee Bucks host San Antonio Sunday afternoon – Tip-off is at 12:30pm (AEST)