Coming off their first win of the Doc Rivers era in a 25-point comeback against the Dallas Mavericks, the Milwaukee Bucks were back at it the following day to take on the Utah Jazz.
Not only were the Bucks shorthanded with Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez both out, one due to injury management and the other for personal reasons, but their top two players were also banged up, with both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard listed on the injury report. They ultimately gave it a go to try and help the Bucks complete the back-to-back.
For three quarters, the short-handed Bucks played a quality game. Milwaukee went up by as many as 15 points in the second quarter and held a double-digit lead for almost all of the third. However, once the fourth started, they looked like an entirely new team. Utah outscored them 40-13 over the final 12 minutes, as the Bucks' offense froze over completely, and the defense wasn't any better.
The Jazz secured a 123-108 victory on their home floor, dropping Milwaukee to 1-3 since Rivers took over as head coach.
Young Milwaukee Bucks wing may have earned more playing time in loss to Utah Jazz
About the only positive from the loss was the play of AJ Green, a sophomore who hasn't seen much time for the Bucks this season. With the team shorthanded, Green get extended run, and he showed why he could very well be deserving of more minutes moving forward.
In just under 22 minutes, Green logged 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting while pulling down five boards. The guard, known for his sharpshooting, knocked down three triples, one of which came from way beyond the 3-point line, to give this team a jolt on offense.
Not only was he hot offensively, but Green showed some competitiveness on the defensive side of the floor as well. Green spent most of his time guarding Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton, Utah's two most dynamic guards, and he held up quite well.
The Bucks should continue to get a closer look at Green moving forward. He's young, but he's got what it takes to be a great rotational piece due to his shooting and defensive intensity. Given how much Milwaukee's bench has struggled this season, it's worth a shot.
Elsewhere, Giannis Antetokounmpo had another stat-sheet-stuffing showing, logging 33 points on 73.3 percent shooting, 13 assists, seven rebounds, and a block. Outside of his five turnovers, he was a force in this one, but it still wasn't enough.
The Greek Freak got help from Bobby Portis, who scored 27 points while filling in for Brook Lopez as a starter, and Malik Beasley, who had 16 points on 75 percent shooting. It was welcoming to see these two, who have been incredibly hot and cold lately, find their stride and contribute offensively.
However, Milwaukee's other two starters, Damian Lillard and Jae Crowder, clocked in duds. Lillard had an excellent outing against Dallas, but he failed to build any momentum off of that, finishing with just 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting, including 1-of-8 from deep with three turnovers and five fouls.
In 40 minutes, Crowder was just 2-of-10 from the floor for six points. He logged a new high in minutes this season, which is a positive sign as he attempts to find a groove after his return from surgery. Yet, in a game like this, where the Bucks are shorthanded, they needed more from the veteran.
Lauri Markkanen led the way for Utah with 21 points, while six other Jazz players had double-digit points, including 19 each from Keyonte George and Collin Sexton.
With the 2024 NBA Trade Deadline on Thursday, the Bucks are in a weird phase where they do not know who will be on the roster in the coming days. They have just one for game, a matchup versus the Phoenix Suns, before deadline day, where changes are expected.
The most prominent thing the Bucks need is for Lillard to get going. He recently opened up about his struggles off the floor, as he's clearly going through a lot. Lillard has all of the talent in the world, but he is enduring an difficult transition in his life, which has hindered his play.
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