3 takeaways from Milwaukee Bucks’ tough loss to Portland Trail Blazers

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 14: Anfernee Simons #1 of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles the ball against Jrue Holiday #21 of the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half at Fiserv Forum on February 14, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 14: Anfernee Simons #1 of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles the ball against Jrue Holiday #21 of the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half at Fiserv Forum on February 14, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Lindell Wiggington, Jordan Nwora, Serge Ibaka, Portland Trail Blazers: Jusuf Nurkic
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – FEBRUARY 14 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Following a three-day weekend, the Milwaukee Bucks were back in action last night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Despite the extended time off following their West Coast road trip, the Bucks did not appear to be refreshed back on their home floor. While they kept it close early and trailed by just one point after the first quarter, the Bucks lost control over the next 12 minutes. Portland put up 40 points in the second quarter, outscoring Milwaukee by 16 in the period. Trailing by 17 at the half, the Bucks did not reclaim the lead in the second half, despite battling back late in the fourth quarter before they fell apart in the final moments. The Blazers secured the 122-107 victory and extended the Bucks’ losing streak to two games.

With all that being said, let us take a closer look at three takeaways.

Having filled in for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Serge Ibaka played well in his Milwaukee Bucks debut

With Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting out after suffering an ankle injury in last Thursday’s loss to the Suns, the Bucks needed a replacement. Head coach Mike Budenholzer called upon the newly acquired Serge Ibaka to fill in as the starter in his debut game with the Bucks, and the veteran big man played rather well.

Ibaka started the game off red hot by making his first three shot attempts and scoring six points, showing off his aggressiveness early on. Although he did not score for the remainder of the game as the big man missed his final four shots, it was a positive sign to see him looking for shots as he aims to get integrated with this Milwaukee team. One area that will be worth watching as the year goes on is Ibaka’s perimeter shooting. Once Antetokounmpo returns to the fold, the Bucks will ask Ibaka to let it fly from out there more often than not, surely more than the one 3-point attempt he shot versus the Blazers.

While his numbers offensively did not jump off the page, the Bucks did not bring Ibaka in to score the basketball. It was for his defense, which was on full display against Portland as he proved to be a quality interior presence. Although he tallied just one blocked shot on the night, it felt like Ibaka had several more as the big man lurked around the rim and provided much-needed protection around the hoop all game. Once Antetokounmpo is back, Ibaka’s presence should elevate this Bucks’ defense even further.

With six points, seven rebounds, a steal, and a block in 31 minutes, it was a solid debut for Ibaka. Hopefully this is just the beginning of something special for the veteran in Milwaukee.