Milwaukee Bucks: Fourth quarter issues highlight biggest concerns

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 18 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 18 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

After dominating the regular season over the past two years, the Milwaukee Bucks have faced an unfamiliar form of adversity early on this season.

Currently on a five-game losing streak, the Bucks are just 16-13 throughout 29 games this season. Following Tuesday’s home loss against the Toronto Raptors, Giannis Antetokounmpo assured that Milwaukee’s struggles this season do not call for mass panic because the team will continue improving, per ESPN’s Eric Woodyard: 

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"“You want to come out and win the game, but it doesn’t always go your way. But always, you’ve got to look at the bright side of it. You still have another opportunity on Thursday. So, keep getting better, watch the film, improve, keep everybody in a good place, and it’s not the end of the world right now.”"

Antetokounmpo’s assurance has not exactly allowed the city of Milwaukee to sleep any easier at night, but rather signaling that this team is a work-in-progress. As they continue working out the kinks night in and night out, one of their most prominent flaws remains their play in the final period.

One of the biggest concerns for the Milwaukee Bucks has been their fourth quarter play.

When trailing after three quarters this season, the Bucks are winless, sitting at 0-10 on the year.

Taking a closer look at just what has plagued Milwaukee in the final quarter, scoring is not the main issue. The Bucks are averaging the fifth most points in the fourth quarter this season at 28 points per game and have the fifth-highest offensive rating, which helps them to stay within striking distance.

Taking a closer look, per, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been leaving everything out on the court in the final period by putting up an average of 7.8 points while shooting 59.1 percent from the floor and 37 percent from behind the arc. Antetokounmpo’s average of eight points ties him for first in the league, and there is no questioning that he has been great in the fourth quarter this season.

Not so ideally, however, their defense has been simultaneously subpar. Milwaukee’s opponents put up 27.4 points on average in the final 12 minutes, the 17th most in the league. Opposing offenses have exploited this surprisingly lackluster defense, particularly from behind the arc, and the Bucks are yet to find a solution.

However, perhaps the biggest flaw is Milwaukee’s performance in the clutch this season. They have the fewest appearances in the clutch this season, that being a five-point game within the final five minutes, but when they get there, execution has not been their strong suit. The Bucks are an abysmal 2-8 in crunch time this season.

Despite Antetokounmpo’s herculean fourth quarter efforts, Khris Middleton has typically been Milwaukee’s go-to-guy down the stretch. The two-time All-Star leads Milwaukee with 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting and 4-of-10 from deep in clutch times scenarios this season and is getting touches for a majority of the minutes. Still, the Greek Freak has gotten some looks himself, putting up 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting in the clutch also.

Yet, the Bucks have won just 25 percent of these tight games this season. Although it is the smallest sample size in the league at 10 games, Milwaukee’s record in such situations is far from ideal. As evidenced by their flameouts in the last two postseason runs, executing in close games will be pivotal, and they have not given much optimism for change this time around.

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The Bucks have endured their issues in the fourth quarter this season, but hopefully, they make this team better prepared down the road.