With loss to Knicks, Bucks have opened an entirely new can of worms

New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks
New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

The Milwaukee Bucks are in the middle of their worst stretch of the 2023-24 NBA season, and that's saying something in a year that has been full of them.

Milwaukee is now a mere 1-6 over their last seven contests following a Sunday night loss to the visiting New York Knicks. As one might expect, this recent skid has altered the Eastern Conference standings mightily. While the Bucks still hold the second seed, this defeat has put them in a position where they could lose that grip very soon.

With loss to Knicks, Bucks have opened an entirely new can of worms

For a while now, it has felt like the Bucks would be penciled into the East's second seed behind only the Boston Celtics. However, following this loss, that is far from a guarantee. The Bucks are now just a single game above the Orlando Magic and Knicks in the standings, one and a half above the rivaling Cleveland Cavaliers and two and a half above the Indiana Pacers.

If the Bucks continue dropping these contests, they could drop faster than Disney's old-fashioned 'Tower of Terror' attraction. To add some intensity to this conundrum, the Bucks will square off with the Magic in two of their final four games, a foe that will certainly be fired up to show that they can hang with one of the best the Eastern Conference has to offer.

Now, the Bucks have added an element of uncertainty as to who they will face in the postseason as they try to figure out these recent issues that have plagued them.

Circling back to the loss to the New York Knicks, the Bucks looked good to start. They finally had their typical starting five back in the fold, but it didn't last very long. Khris Middleton took a shot to the face in the first half, spewing a pool of blood onto the floor. Middleton swiftly exited and never returned, adding insult to injury in this incredibly difficult stretch.

In his return, Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to shoulder the load, finishing with 28 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks, but he was still rusty. Damian Lillard did not help the cause whatsoever, tallying 23 points on 4-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-7 from deep. In a game Middleton left early on, Lillard needs to be more aggressive. Him getting 11 shots is simply not enough.

One bright spot from this contest was Bobby Portis, who was among the few Bucks who played with a sense of urgency and intensity. Wanting to down his former team, Portis chipped in 24 points and five rebounds on 10-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep. If others can help him out, this type of play from Portis could be a sizeable difference maker for the Bucks' bench brigade.

The massive problem with that is the Bucks are not getting support from their complementary parts. Malik Beasley finally knocked down a couple of threes amidst a recent slump, but he was still below his scoring average. Pat Connaughton failed to make much of an impact in 31 minutes, shooting just 1-of-5 from the floor and getting attacked on defense.

After seeing what Andre Jackson Jr. could do for this team against the Toronto Raptors, it is nothing short of baffling that Doc Rivers continues to play these two over him. It's clear to anyone watching these games that Milwaukee needs the athleticism and pace Jackson possesses, but he continues to primarily serve as a spectator. At this point, it has grown mind-numbing.

For the Knicks, Jalen Brunson, who has established himself as a bonafide Milwaukee Bucks killer this season, finished with 43 points. He was unstoppable, with none of Milwaukee's defenders posing any semblance of a threat to him. Former Buck DiVincenzo showed his old team what they traded away with an impressive 26-point outing, hitting eight outside shots.

The Milwaukee Bucks now find themselves in a rut and only have four games to right the ship before the NBA Playoffs begin. It will be fascinated to see if they can buckle down and perform like the team many thought could be legitimate title contenders or if they are destined for another early finish.

Stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis.