Bucks hope to correct bad habit against Blazers
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks have developed an unfortunate habit of falling behind — big — early in games lately but unlike previous editions of Bucks teams, this one has also developed an uncanny habit of rallying back for victories.
The Bucks have trailed by double digits in each of their last three games, and four of their last five, but have rallied to win their last two, erasing deficits of 22 and 17 points to beat the Bulls and Nuggets, respectively.
Forward Giannis Antetkounmpo credits Milwaukee’s ability to bounce back as well as avoid big deficits overall — the Bucks trailed opponents by at least 10 points in 46 of their 82 games last season — to the presence of new head coach Mike Budenholzer, whose approach has led to a more relaxed atmosphere and whose offensive philosophy has bred a sense of confidence.
“(Previous head coach) Jason (Kidd) would have yelled at us and we probably would have stayed closed in a shell. And sometimes when guys got yelled at, they had a tendency to not play as hard and play a little bit more scared.
“But with Coach Bud, he’s always coming from a good place. He gives you the green light, but he’s going to scold you, he’s always going to talk to you. When you’re messing up, he’s going to let you know. But when you’re going good stuff he’s always going to tell you, make you feel positive and make you play for the team.”
Budenholzer appreciates the sentiments but is quick to deflect any credit.
“I think it’s a lot more them,” Budenholzer said. “But I mean, there’s no doubt they’re hearing the same message about shooting when they’re open and shooting with confidence. We’re going to play the same way start of the game to the end of the game.”
Still, the Bucks would very much like to avoid digging out of holes and would prefer not to do so Wednesday night when they play host the Portland Trail Blazers in Milwaukee.
Portland (12-5) has won two in a row as it continues a six-game, cross-country-and-back road swing that began with the Blazers’ first back-to-back losses of the season (to the Lakers and Timberwolves). The Blazers snapped that brief skid with a 10-point victory at Washington Sunday and followed that up by edging the Knicks, 118-114 Tuesday at The Garden.
Damian Lillard scored 29 points with eight assists and six rebounds against New York. He scored 40 two days earlier against the Wizards and comes to Milwaukee averaging 26.6 per game this season, good for seventh in the league, just 0.7 points ahead of Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo.
He scored a season-low 13 on 5-of-15 shooting earlier this month when the Blazers beat Milwaukee, 118-103 in Portland. With Lillard having a rare off night, C.J. McCollum picked up the slack by scoring 40 on 17-of-26 shooting including five 3-pointers as Portland shot 52.7 percent from the floor and held Milwaukee to 43.5 percent shooting.
“He had a heck of a night,” Budenholzer said. “Any time we made a bit of a run or felt like the momentum might be changing, McCollum hit a big shot.”
Milwaukee has taken six of the last eight meetings with the Trail Blazers, including five in a row at home.