Bucks home struggles continue in loss to lowly Jazz
MILWAUKEE — The same question has been asked of the Milwaukee Bucks repeatedly over the last six weeks.
Is it getting frustrating to not be able to win at home?
Milwaukee’s home struggles continued Thursday night, as the Bucks started slow and missed five good looks late in a 101-99 loss to the struggling Utah Jazz at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Not only did the Jazz come in losers of four in a row by double digits, they were playing without their second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, as Derrick Favors was out due to personal reasons.
With a red-hot Detroit team looming before a three-game road trip, this was a game the Bucks simply had to win.
"It is disappointing not to win at home, especially the last two games," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "We were coming off the London game and feeling good about ourselves. Then we got here and had two opportunities to win it on the last possession."
Despite playing on a back-to-back while the Bucks had two days off, the Jazz had all the energy during the first quarter. Utah built a 32-16 second-quarter lead, but Milwaukee was able to cut its deficit to six at halftime.
The Bucks began the second half on a 28-14 run to take a 75-64 lead with 3:56 left in the third quarter. Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo were able to get out on the break and run, as they combined for 16 third-quarter points.
But as he was done all year, Kidd went to his bench with Milwaukee up eight with 2:41 remaining in the third. By the time Knight and Antetokounmpo came back in, the Jazz had tied the game at 91 with 5:23 to play.
"Bad loss, a very bad loss," Bucks guard Jared Dudley said. "That’s on the bench right there. The starters gave us a 12-point lead."
Like Monday’s three-point loss to Toronto, Milwaukee overcame its mistakes to put itself in position to win or force overtime late.
Utah didn’t score a single point over the final 2:35, but the Bucks missed five shots that would have tied the game or given them the lead. Giannis Antetokounmpo missed a wide-open 3-point attempt, Brandon Knight missed a point-blank layup and Jared Dudley had a go-ahead 3-point try go around and out.
"Oh my gosh, the basketball gods got me, huh?" Dudley said. "I thought it was a good shot, in and out. At the time I thought, ‘get one up,’ because if I did miss we’d be able to foul."
Despite all of that, Milwaukee got the ball back with 7.1 seconds to play after a video review reversed an out-of-bounds call. Knight missed a 15-foot jumper for the tie, while Zaza Pachulia’s tip at the buzzer was too strong.
"I had a couple (of chances)," Knight said. "I’m used to making those shots. We had some great looks that just didn’t go down."
Since beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 13 to go to 7-4 at home, the Bucks have gone 1-6 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Their lone win was over lowly Minnesota, while they’ve lost to three sub-.500 teams.
The five teams ahead of the Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings are a combined 45 games over .500 at home. Milwaukee is listed at being 9-10 at home, but one of those wins came over the New York Knicks in London.
"It is definitely worrisome because you can’t give away games," Dudley said. "(Utah) is a team that frankly has been very poor on the road, was on a back-to-back and had arguably their best player not playing. We were coming off two good days of practice. If we weren’t so good on the road it would be really worrisome."
Everything pointed to the Bucks ending their home struggles Thursday night.
But Milwaukee let an 11-point second-half lead slip away to a Jazz team that entered just 1-23 when trailing after three quarters.
"It is very disappointing," Pachulia said. "There were good things going on. We were having fun on offense, helping each other and talking. Losing games at home is disappointing and not who we are. As the season has been going on, now we should be picking up but we’re slipping.
"Unfortunately we are giving up these games. Once the season is over and we think back, we will wish we won this kind of game."
Finding his way: Elijah Millsap left a positive impression during his short stint with the Milwaukee Bucks, but a roster of 15 guaranteed contracts prevented him from having any real chance to make the team.
After being released by the Bucks on Oct. 16, Millsap joined the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA’s Developmental League. The 27-year-old was averaging 20.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game for the Jam when he was called up and signed to a 10-day contract by the Jazz on Jan. 5.
Millsap has played more than most D-League call-ups mostly due to Utah losing Alec Burks for the season and Rodney Hood until after the All-Star break.
"I think he’s had a presence defensively," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "The things we’ve talked to him about is just being solid offensively — trying not to make mistakes, but also being willing and comfortable to shoot the ball when he’s open.
"For him it has been a crash course. He might know the Bucks’ stuff better than he knows our stuff."
In nine games with the Jazz, Millsap is averaging 5.8 points and shooting 32.1 percent from the field over 20.7 minutes per game.
He finished with five points and two rebounds in 18 minutes against the Bucks on Thursday, hitting a crucial 3-pointer that cut Milwaukee’s lead to 77-72 near the end of the third quarter.
"He is a hard worker," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "He believes he should be in the NBA, and I’m happy to see him get his chance. He’s a great kid. For him to have this opportunity is great."
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