In opening a stretch of five games in seven days against Western Conference opponents, the Milwaukee Bucks were hoping to build off the momentum of two consecutive victories by taking advantage of a Denver squad playing its third game in as many nights.
Unfortunately, another bad quarter doomed the Bucks, who fell to the Nuggets 91-86 Monday night in Denver.
Unlike in the previous three games, when the Bucks came out of halftime with a double-digit lead and struggled to maintain their momentum, it was the fourth quarter that led to Milwaukee’s demise Monday.
The Bucks led 74-68 heading into the final 12 minutes but went cold from the floor, shooting just 22 percent (5-for-22).
Denver (8-for-25) didn’t fare too much better, but three Milwaukee turnovers (leading to six points) and a six-minute scoreless stretch helped Denver pull away, outscoring the Bucks 23-12 in the quarter.
Turnovers were a problem all night for the Bucks (2-2), who committed 14, leading to 19 Denver points.
“We didn’t play very well,” head coach Scott Skiles said. “We threw the ball all over the place tonight. We missed layups; we missed open shots; we over-dribbled. The teamwork we’ve had certainly wasn’t there tonight.”
Key matchup: The Bucks tried to stay in the game down the stretch by feeding the ball down low to Andrew Bogut, who was matched up against Denver’s Al Harrington. Despite a significant size advantage, Bogut was held to just two points in the quarter while Harrington connected on three of five shots and went 2-for-2 from the free throw line to finish with eight points.
With 29 seconds left and the Bucks down by one, 87-86, the Bucks called a time out after Stephen Jackson’s missed jumper. Coming out of the break, Bogut took the ball just off the lane, but Harrington prevented him from getting close and his hook shot missed, leading to a Ty Lawson layup that gave Denver a three-point lead.
“We got a good look by (Jackson), Skiles said. “We thought we’d go to (Bogut) one more time but came up empty. The focus shouldn’t be on that final play, we just didn’t play well enough to win.”
Mbah a Moute returns: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made his season debut Monday, scoring six points in 22 minutes off the bench. He’d missed Milwaukee’s first three games while dealing with patellar tendinitis in his knee.
“His presence is important out there so it’s good to have him back,” Skiles said.
Mbah a Moute said afterward that his knee isn’t yet at 100 percent, but he’s ready for regular work.
Delfino in, Dunleavy out: Skiles started Carlos Delfino against the Nuggets.
Delfino came off the bench Friday night in the Bucks’ 102-81 victory over Washington. He’d missed the Bucks’ first two games due to a sprained right wrist. Monday, he had 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting and led the team with nine rebounds.
Mike Dunleavy, Jr., missed the game due to illness. Skiles expected that he’ll be able to play Tuesday when the Bucks face the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.
FOX Sports Wisconsin analyst Craig Coshun contributed to this report.