Recent ugly trend continues in Milwaukee Bucks' loss to Washington Wizards

Milwaukee Bucks v Washington Wizards
Milwaukee Bucks v Washington Wizards / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

Fresh off a victory over the short-handed Atlanta Hawks Saturday, the Milwaukee Bucks visited the short-handed Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

In addition to having one of the NBA's worst records, the Wizards were without a significant handful of their top players, including Kyle Kuzma and Tyus Jones. While the Bucks were without Damian Lillard, who is dealing with a groin strain, this is a game they were certainly still favored in. Yet, that ultimately didn't mean too much in the end.

The Bucks looked discombobulated and disinterested from the opening tip. The Wizards came out far more ready to play, with several players who do not see significant minutes, such as Jared Butler and
Tristan Vukcevic, having impressive outings and giving their team life. That spark resulted in a big lead for the Wizards, and the Milwaukee Bucks failed to claw their way back on top.

After several blunders in the clutch by Milwaukee, the Wizards secured a 117-113 victory.

Recent ugly trend continues in Milwaukee Bucks' loss to Washington Wizards

The Milwaukee Bucks are 1-3 in their last four games. In those games, they have lost to three teams missing key cogs. Against the LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers, they blew a 20-point lead and went to double overtime. Without Brandon Ingram, the New Orleans Pelicans took down the Bucks. Milwaukee did beat the Hawks without Trae Young, but they fell to the injured Wizards on Tuesday.

The Bucks find themselves in a recent spell where they are playing down to their competition when that team is missing a key cog or two. Milwaukee has been all over the place this season, failing to establish much of an identity, and stretches like this are a significant reason why. It's the type of performance fans just dread leading up to the NBA Playoffs.

As he did against the Hawks, Giannis Antetokounmpo shouldered much of the workload in this one, finishing with 35 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. Though he had a triple-double, two turnovers in the final few minutes, one of which was a head-scratching travel, certainly hurt Milwaukee's chances of securing another clutch-time win.

On paper, Khris Middleton had a nice outing with 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals. Given how poorly the rest of the team was shooting the ball, one would have liked to see Middleton get more aggressive offensively, especially considering he had the fourth-most shot attempts on the team in the fourth quarter. He should have upped his aggressiveness, especially with Lillard out.

The Bucks also struggled to get much out of their supporting cast. Pat Connaughton, Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley and Jae Crowder combined to shoot 5-of-28 from 3-point range, struggling mightily to hit anything for most of the game. A lot of these were great looks, primarily with Connaughton, but many of the other looks felt forced and ill-advised, especially with how badly this group was slumping.

Connaughton did clock in 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a block to have an all-around quality showing, but his poor shooting was hard to overcome. This game captured how well he can serve as a Swiss Army Knife by doing a bit of everything, but the Milwaukee Bucks need him to hit these shots with more regularity, especially when the rest of the team is struggling.

Bobby Portis, who has been much better as of late, took a major step back, playing much more like the pre-trade deadline Bobby Portis. He was struggling with his shot, so he tried forcing his way into a groove, and it just didn't pan out. He finished with 12 points on 14 shot attempts, missing all three of his triples for the Milwaukee Bucks.

On the other side of things, the Wizards got a little bit out of everyone. Corey Kispert tallied 27 points, Deni Avdija had 23 points, Jordan Poole had 16 points and 13 assists and three other Wizards totaled double-digit points. They simply played like they were the more energized team, highlighted by a play late where Anthony Gill snuck past Milwaukee's defense for a clutch bucket to basically seal the deal.

The Bucks will not have much time to sulk over this one, as they're set to face the Memphis Grizzlies, another banged-up team they lost to earlier this season, on Wednesday. Let's hope they can snap an ongoing streak of losing to short-handed teams missing one or more regular star pieces.

Stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis.