MILWAUKEE — For the first time in what now is an eight-game losing streak, the Milwaukee Bucks put up so little of a fight that Larry Drew had to get something off his chest.
Expecting an inspired performance after Friday night’s heartbreaking overtime loss in Philadelphia, Drew was thoroughly embarrassed after Milwaukee’s 96-72 loss to Charlotte at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“Before I answer any questions let me just first say that I owe the fans a big, big apology from the performance of this team tonight,” Drew said. “Very, very disappointed. I really thought tonight after last night’s loss that this team would come out and play with some energy, play with passion. They did not do that.
“I told the guys after the game, there will be changes in our starting lineup. If they are not on the same page with it, so be it. But there will be changes. We definitely owe these fans a big apology. On behalf of this team, I want to extend that apology out. We totally, totally let this city down tonight on the way we played, on our energy and our intensity.
“As long as I’m the head coach here, that will never happen again. Whether they like it or they don’t.”
The Bucks had been able to hang their hat on being in the majority of their games, playing hard through countless injuries. With 13 healthy bodies for the first time all season, Milwaukee fell flat on its face.
Sitting at 2-10, Milwaukee is off to its worst start since 1993-94 and is riding its first eight-game losing streak since the end of the 2007-08 season. But Drew’s frustration didn’t come from those facts, it came from the fact the Bucks were dead emotionally from the opening tip.
Charlotte got to every loose ball, won the rebounding battle 52-36 and ended up with its second-most lopsided road victory in franchise history.
“I think it’s something different night in and night out, honestly,” Bucks guard Gary Neal said. “I thought we had a good flow in Philly. We had an opportunity to win a road game. Tonight it just seemed we were a little flat, no energy for whatever reason. Maybe back-to-back? I don’t know.
“It’s the NBA, everybody is playing back-to-backs. You have to figure out a way to bring energy night in and night out.”
Drew was pleased with how the Bucks reported to the arena after a prayer 3-pointer by Spencer Hawes prevented them from snapping the skid Friday night. He expected to see an angry response, or at least a competitive one. He didn’t get anything close to that.
“I thought we really would come back and play with some energy and play with some juice,” Drew said. “We totally went south. We did not play with any energy. We didn’t play with any passion. We didn’t play together. We didn’t play like a team. That’s very, very disheartening and something I will not accept.”
Offensively, the Bucks failed to hit 82 points for the fourth time in five games. Drew said to ignore Friday’s 107-point outburst against Philadelphia because of the way the 76ers played defense, and he was right.
The Bucks got just 18 points from their starting five, as reserve forward Khris Middleton scored 20 of Milwaukee’s 72 points. Saturday marked the Bucks’ lowest point total since a 78-72 loss in Orlando on April 5, 2011.
“Selfish play, that’s what it was,” Drew said of the offensive woes. “We didn’t play together as a team. We started playing individually. I’ve said it 100 times, we aren’t a good team when we play like that.”
As a newly assembled group, Neal didn’t know what to expect after Friday night’s loss. How a team psychologically responds to a tough loss is usually a good indicator of what a group is made of, but Neal hopes Saturday was just a fluke.
“Hopefully this isn’t a sign of who we are,” Neal said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get a win sooner than later and get this ship turned back.
“Everybody in this locker room, everybody who has Bucks on their backs is frustrated when you lose seven, eight in a row, especially because I felt we played pretty good in Philly.
“At the end of the day, we’ve played 10 or 11 games. You can’t beat yourself up too bad. We still have 70 games left. If we’re able to get the ship righted and get everyone on board and playing good basketball, I don’t think in March anybody will be talking about this.”
Neal was then asked if he felt the Bucks are lacking leadership, and he said he doesn’t feel Milwaukee’s woes boil down to a leadership void.
“Not taking anything away from anybody in this locker room, everybody is a professional and everybody is extremely talented, but there isn’t any Tim Duncan’s or Tony Parker’s in this locker room,” Neal, who played the last three seasons with the Spurs, said. “You are talking about Hall of Fame players. We don’t have that. We have to do it collectively as a group. When you are doing it collectively as a group there are certain things you can’t miss. You can’t come into a game with no energy. It just doesn’t work that way.
“When you are putting everything together everybody has to be on board. Everyone has to bring what they bring to the table night in and night out to give us a chance to win the game.”
While Drew stressed changes will be made to shake things up before Monday’s game in Detroit, his message to a dejected locker room might just carry more weight. How did he think it was received?
“I hope it ticked some of them off,” Drew said. “But if it didn’t, I don’t care. We’re going to play the right way, and we’re going to play hard whether they like it or not.”