After taking big step forward recently, Bucks take major step back in loss to Heat

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks
Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Over their prior two games, it seemed like the Milwaukee Bucks were finally starting to put the pieces together on the defensive end.

In back-to-back wins over the Charlotte Hornets and Denver Nuggets, the Bucks held both teams to under 100 points. It was the first time they had done so since November 2021. While both of those teams were dealing with injuries, it was still an impressive feat for the Bucks, and it showcased that just maybe they were trending in the right direction defensively.

However, all of that momentum the Bucks may have been building was washed down the drain when the Miami Heat came to town. Despite being without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier, the Heat played like a well-oiled machine on the offensive end, knocking down threes at a high rate while facing very little resistance against Milwaukee's defense.

The short-handed Heat hung 123 points on the Bucks, while Milwaukee mustered up just 97 points. This was an ugly defeat for the Bucks, and it all started on the defensive end.

After taking big step forward recently, Bucks take major step back in loss to Heat

The Bucks had no answer to sophomore wing Nikola Jovic, who had a career night with 24 points on 5-of-8 3-point shooting. He undeniably hit his share of tough shots, but there were multiple plays on defense where the Bucks simply forgot about him, and the forward capitalized.

Sticking with Milwaukee's flat-out poor perimeter defense, Duncan Robinson shot 6-of-8 from deep, while Kevin Love was 5-of-7. Again, there were a couple of shots where all one could do was throw their hands up after a tough made shot, but Milwaukee still gave up plenty of quality looks.

This game should not completely erase hope that the Bucks can be a solid defensive team, but in the moment, it undoubtedly stings to see a banged-up team put 123 points on the board. It shows that they still have some issues to work out without question.

Meanwhile, on Milwaukee's end, the most significant takeaway outside of the horrific defense was Damian Lillard's struggles. The starting guard finished with just 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the floor (35.7 percent), including 2-of-7 from three (28.6 percent). Games like this have been all too common this season, and they've truly hurt the Bucks again and again.

It has undeniably been a tough season for Lillard on and off the court, and he's still struggling to put the pieces together. If the Bucks want to finish the year strong and make a run, they need Lillard to be at his best. Though he will be participating in the NBA All-Star festivities, perhaps the brief break will give him time to get himself right.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 23 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, and two blocks, but it still was not enough. He got much-needed help from Malik Beasley and Bobby Portis, who both logged 16 points. Still, with Khris Middleton out of the lineup and Lillard struggling once again, the Bucks needed more.

Miami's leading scorers were Jovic with 24, Robinson with 23, Love with 19, Tyler Herro with 19 and Bam Adebayo with 16.

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