Bucks sharpen competitive edge after rough loss

Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight (right) puts up a shot against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mark J. Terrill/Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

After laying an egg against one of the Western Conference’s worst teams Sunday night, the Milwaukee Bucks took pushed the Los Angeles Clippers for four quarters.

But it wasn’t enough to get a victory. The Bucks came up short again in a 106-98 loss to the Clippers at Staples Center, a theme of three of the four stops on Milwaukee’s road trip.

If the Bucks had come out with the same intensity Monday as they did in a 17-point loss to the Kings on Sunday, Milwaukee would have been run out of the gym by the Clippers. Sacramento led the Bucks by 40 points in the third quarter, but they only trailed Los Angeles by five heading to the fourth quarter Monday.

"I was very pleased with our effort," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "After last night’s performance in Sacramento, I think our guys really competed hard. We put ourselves in a good position. It comes down to making plays down the stretch, which we weren’t able to do."

Trailing by 15 late in the first quarter, the Bucks used an 18-5 run to close the gap to 38-36 with 9:00 to play in the half.

The Clippers went back up by double digits at 71-60 with 5:33 left in the third quarter, but Milwaukee was able to cut the gap to 82-80 on back-to-back dunks by John Henson with 10:00 remaining. Led by 10 points apiece from Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin, Los Angeles took advantage of three crucial Bucks turnovers and eventually pulled away down the stretch.

"It was multiple things," Drew said. A couple of defensive possessions, a couple of offensive possessions. We missed a couple of shots, turned the ball over a few times. Against a good team in their building, you can’t do that. You have to be consistent on both ends of the floor. They have too many ways to beat you."

Despite what some will consider a lackluster performance by the Clippers, Crawford was not surprised to see the Bucks compete.

"The Bucks played hard," Crawford said. "Coach Drew is struggling a bit this year, but I played for him in Atlanta and he always had a really good game plan. They always play hard. They got their butts kicked last night but came out tonight with a lot of pride and pushed us."

Getting a look: The Bucks let Chris Wright go after his 10-day contract and will sign former University of Memphis forward D.J. Stephens to a 10-day deal Tuesday, according to a league source.

Clippers 106, Bucks 98

Stephens has spent the 2014 season playing for the Greek club Ilisiakos where he averaged 9.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-5 forward is a freakish athlete that can really jump. According to DraftExpress.com, Stephens’ no-step jump was recorded at 40 inches and his max-vertical leap at 46 inches during pre-draft workouts.

He played three seasons at Memphis, averaging 7.6 points per game his senior season before going undrafted this past June. The Bucks are taking a look at a variety of different players with the roster spot vacated with the buyout of Caron Butler.

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