Bucks show minor improvements as struggles continue
MILWAUKEE — Larry Drew thought the Milwaukee Bucks played decent defense in the first half until he looked down at the box score and saw the Charlotte Bobcats shot 54.8 percent.
He knew that wasn’t a good sign.
The Bucks did nothing to slow the Bobcats down, as Charlotte shot 59.5 percent in the second half and 57.4 percent for the game to overtake the Bucks in a 101-92 victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Sunday afternoon.
A day after getting blown out in New York by the Knicks, Milwaukee put forth a much better effort but just came up short.
"Our goal was to come out and get stops," Bucks guard Brandon Knight said. "Steamrolling from yesterday not getting stops, we still struggled to get stops. It hurt us yesterday a lot and showed today."
Milwaukee did lead by four points at halftime and held a six-point advantage early in the third quarter, but eventually the shots stopped falling. The Bucks shot 28.6 percent (6-of-21) in the fourth quarter and didn’t offer much resistance defensively.
Former Bucks guard Gary Neal scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, while Bobcats center Al Jefferson poured in 16 second-half points.
"A little bit of lack of effort," Knight said. "I’ll say we had a lot more effort today than we did yesterday, but the fourth quarter you have to have some heart. We lacked that today in the fourth quarter. They were just a better team."
Neal, who received a chorus of boos when he checked in for the first time, continued his stretch of good play for the Bobcats by hitting five-of-six shots and two of his three 3-point attempts.
"I was glad I was able to be efficient," Neal said. "Since I’ve been in Charlotte I’ve been playing well. I’ve been efficient and effective, hopefully I will be able to keep that up."
Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien both played well against their former team, as Sessions scored 18 points and six assists off the bench and Adrien added 12 points and four rebounds in 14 minutes.
"It was almost like practice," Sessions said. "It was fun playing against those guys. I wish them well. But for us, we came out and fought hard. We played a great first half. It was there right at the end of the game. We just couldn’t get the stops we needed."
Failing to put together four quarters of solid play has killed the Bucks for the majority of the season. Milwaukee can look good for two quarters and then fall flat.
"This game had a lot of similarities to the Atlanta game," Drew said. "The first half we did a good job against Kyle Korver. Tonight we did a good job against Gary Neal. He had two points at the half and finished with 18. We let him get away in the second half."
Charlotte improved to 33-34 on the season and now sits just 1 1/2 games behind Brooklyn for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. As for the Bucks, they fell to a league-worst 13-54 on the season and have to go 8-8 over the final 16 games to avoid the worst record in franchise history.
The loss dropped the Bucks to 2 1/2 games behind the 76ers for the worst record in the NBA. Philadelphia has lost 20 games in a row, tied for the seventh-longest losing streak in league history.
Ilyasova sits: Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova missed his second game of the week Sunday with a right ankle injury.
Ilyasova said he tweaked the injury in Saturday’s loss to New York and playing back-to-back games is tough. He initially injured the ankle in Milwaukee’s exhibition opener and has battled the ailment all season long.
"When you talk about these injuries there are good days and bad days," Drew said. "Do they completely heal? Chances are no because at some point you’ll tweak it again. Just because of the constant pounding on the ankle causes things to linger on.
"That is one of the last things you want with that type of injury, for things just to linger on for a long period of time and apparently that is what is happening here."
Ilyasova will make the trip with the Bucks to Portland, as Milwaukee starts a four-game road trip against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.
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