Sluggish second half dooms Bucks at Cleveland
The Milwaukee Bucks just can’t solve the puzzle of winning consecutive games. Just two nights after putting together a good performance in a win over Detroit, the Bucks failed to bring the same type of energy Friday night.
Cleveland dominated Milwaukee on the glass and inside, coasting to a 93-78 victory to leave the Bucks as the only NBA team without back-to-back wins.
"It’s disappointing," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "Not taking anything away from this Cleveland Cavaliers team, but we’ve had some battles against them. I was expecting our guys with a little bit more firepower coming off what I would call an impressive win against Detroit, not having Larry (Sanders and O.J. (Mayo). They were clearly the aggressors from start to finish."
The Bucks were the more aggressive team Wednesday against Detroit and won nearly every 50-50 ball and hustle play to pull out a victory. Drew thought finally getting a win would lead to a better performance against the Cavaliers, and he took responsibility for the lackluster performance.
"We didn’t play with a sense of urgency and that’s clearly on me," Drew said. "That’s my responsibility to get my guys to come out and play with a sense of urgency. We didn’t come out and play with a sense of urgency in that second half.
"We got out to a pretty good start in the first half and then we went through a stretch where I just thought they manhandled us in the paint. I thought they got their hands on a lot of balls that we should have came away with."
Cleveland went on a 17-0 run in the first quarter to jump out to a 23-11 lead, but the Bucks closed with a 12-1 spurt to end the period down just one.
The second quarter was a struggle offensively for Milwaukee, scoring just 14 points. John Henson was the only player to have more than two points in the quarter, as the Bucks shot 7-of-18 and missed all six of their 3-point attempts. Cleveland’s lead was just nine at the break despite all of that, and Drew thought the Bucks were still in a good position.
An old problem presented itself again when the Bucks started the second half slow and allowed their opponent to run away with the game.
"We talk about it a lot: The start of the third quarter, coming out with energy, playing with fire, playing with intensity, and we didn’t do that," Drew said. "I have to do a better job getting these guys ready at the start of the third quarter."
After outrebounding a good rebounding team in Detroit on Wednesday, Drew opted to stick with the big starting lineup of Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh. The results weren’t as good this time around.
The Cavaliers outrebounded the Bucks, 52-34, and controlled the game inside. Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao scored a game-high 16 points and helped Cleveland to 48 points in the paint.
Milwaukee did lose Udoh to an ankle injury after he came down awkwardly on a rebound attempt in the second quarter. He was diagnosed with a sprained left ankle and did not return to the game.
Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter