While Larry Sanders returned to the Milwaukee lineup to help shore up the interior defense, the Bucks struggled to guard the perimeter Friday night in Brooklyn.
Led by reserves Mirza Teletovic and Jason Terry, the struggling Nets hit 12 3-pointers and used a big first quarter to snap their four-game losing streak in a 104-93 victory over the Bucks.
"It was just execution," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "We just didn’t defend the 3-point line the way we talked about defending it against guys like Teltovic and Terry. You can’t give those guys open looks and we did.
"It seemed like every time we tried to make a run there was a breakdown defensively and we were giving up the three."
After having three days off since Monday’s overtime loss to Charlotte, the Bucks came out flat against a Nets team coming off an embarrassing blowout loss to Chicago on Christmas. Milwaukee shot just 7-of-24 in the first quarter, while Brooklyn jumped out to a 31-18 behind Deron Williams’ nine points.
"I thought it was the first quarter that really buried us and set the tone," Drew said. "We didn’t play with a lot of energy. We gave up 31 points in that first quarter, which is way, way too much. Our shot selection wasn’t very good in the first quarter. A lot of things compounded in that first quarter and we found ourselves having to dig yourself out of a hole."
The Bucks would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way, as Brooklyn’s perimeter shooting pushed the lead back to double digits whenever Milwaukee crept closer. Khris Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova and Caron Butler combined to shoot 5-for-29, while O.J. Mayo was 5-of-13 and Brandon Knight went 4-of-13.
Drew acknowledged the Bucks shot poorly from the field, but was also disappointed his team didn’t look to get the ball inside to establish a low-post game as the Nets were missing Brook Lopez.
"Allow the low-post game to open up the perimeter," Drew said. "We didn’t do that. When you seek the perimeter right off the initial thrust of the play and shots aren’t falling, you fall behind."
There were a couple of bright spots for the Bucks, as Sanders was very active in his first game since Nov. 2. Though he fouled out, Sanders scored 10 points with seven rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes.
Drew sensed Sanders was a bit tired in the first half but decided to leave him in until he fouled out in the second half to help the big man get back into basketball shape.
"I thought he played really well," Drew said. "I know he got a little winded. I tried to be real mindful of that to make sure I didn’t leave him out there for too long of stretches. I thought he was really active in getting to the boards, I thought he rolled well off the screen and roll, just very active."
The other silver lining Friday was the continued strong play of rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. He still made some mistakes, particularly in defensive rotations, Antetokounmpo recorded his first career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
"He’s getting better and better," Drew said. "He’s doing a lot of things out on the floor. He’s taking the challenge defensively, he’s rebounding the basketball, he’s pushing the basketball in transition. He’s doing a lot of good things for us."