The mood in the locker room of the Milwaukee Bucks was “rather quiet,” said newcomer Bobby Portis, after losing 124-113 to the visiting Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
But while reigning back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged some frustration after the Bucks’ fourth straight loss, he said there is no reason for the team not to stay focused and calm.
“I kind of feel like everyone is in a panic, which shouldn’t be,” said Antetokounmpo, who had 34 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and five steals in defeat. “We have to keep improving, we have to keep playing good basketball, we have to watch the movie, and at the end of the day we have to compete. When you come here, nothing can be easy.”
Once again the Bucks ‘Achilles’ heel turned out to be the fourth quarter, as they were surpassed 12-4 in the last five minutes.
They are now 0-9 when they are three quarters behind this season, and they took to the night with the second-lowest win rate in games hitting time this season at 22%, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information . Only the Detroit Pistons (20%) are worse.
Link time is defined as any time the score falls within five points in the last five minutes and can be any time during that period.
“At the end of the day, we lost four in a row; we’re not going home,” said Antetokounmpo. “We’re still here. It’s not the playoffs. It’s clearly frustrating. We want to win, especially a game like this one. A big game, guys who play hard.
“You want to come out and win the game, but it doesn’t always go your way. But you always have to look on the bright side. You have another chance on Thursday. So keep getting better, watch the movie, improve, keep everyone in a good place, and it’s not the end of the world right now.
Milwaukee played for the fifth consecutive game without Jrue Holiday, as he still falls outside of health and safety protocols. Antetokounmpo said the Bucks miss Holiday’s presence on the field.
“We have to get better. It is clear that one of our best players on the team and playmakers and best defenders is not playing with us,” he said. Clearly, it is not an excuse. I am not a man who makes excuses. But it’s a big part of who we are, and we need him. ‘
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet set the Bucks on fire with 33 points, seven assists and four boards in his fifth game of 30 points this season. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry finished with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists in 22 minutes, despite leaving the third quarter with a sore left ankle.
Milwaukee (16-12) has not lost four consecutive games since the 2019 Eastern Conference Final against the Raptors, who were the eventual NBA champions that season.
These teams will meet again on Thursday at the Firserv Forum, where the Bucks will be watching to make changes.
“Nobody is happy with the result, nobody feels good about it, but your process and how you go about it, you have to go back and look at things and see where you can get better,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer.
Earlier in the day, the Bucks also announced at a press conference that they would be taking a phased approach to receive fans on their next three games, which would only be accessible to player families and invitees. They started with 250 fans on Tuesday and will increase to 500 for Thursday’s game and 750 for Friday, before opening games to the general public from Sunday, when approximately 1,800 fans will be admitted.
Even with the fans back, they couldn’t avoid the final loss.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who has battled Milwaukee multiple times, including in the postseason, said he doesn’t see the Bucks’ battle continue.
“In a normal year I would probably be a little surprised. But I think there is a lot going on with different, different teams in the league, and there are so many teams in a few games above .500 and a few below, as probably more than half of the competition, “the nurse said.” I don’t really look at it very well. So I think they definitely have all the pieces and they have depth and they have experience and they have everything; and I think they are among a group of teams that will continue to play better in the second half and get ready for a long run in the playoffs. They have all the tools they need. “
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