Starters fold in fourth quarter as Bucks fall to Bobcats

MILWAUKEE — With a 17-point lead, Bucks coach Larry Drew intended on bringing his starters back in for a couple of minutes to start the fourth quarter. It didn’t take long for his plan to be ripped up and thrown away.

Playing mostly against Charlotte’s backups, Milwaukee’s starting five played the majority of the fourth quarter and were outscored 33-9 in an 83-76 loss at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

“I really learned a lot about our team,” Drew said. “I know we have some guys that are out and we’re short-handed in certain areas, but I purposely threw our starters out there early in the fourth quarter.

“They just didn’t come in ready to play. They did not come in ready to play. As I told them, we’re going to be in that situation again where we do have a lead. We have to learn how to work with a lead. Obviously right now we don’t.”

Drew sensed the Bucks were flat at the start of the third quarter and burned a timeout less than two minutes in to deliver a stern message to pick it up. The players responded and led 67-50 heading into the fourth, but the same sense of urgency issues popped up immediately in the final quarter.

Milwaukee shot just 17.4 percent (4-of-23) in the fourth quarter and missed all eight of its 3-point attempts, settling for contested jump shots instead of creating open looks.

“This was a big learning lesson for us, particularly for the guys who started the game,” Drew said. “They could have come in and closed it out, and they did not come in and close it out.

“We just didn’t respond to their run. That’s the most disturbing part about it, not responding and just seeing the body language when the team got on the run. That’s where we’re going to have to be much, much better.”

The most troubling aspect of the collapse was the fact Charlotte played just one of its regular starters in the quarter. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was surrounded by backups Bismack Biyombo, Jannero Pargo, Anthony Tolliver and Ramon Sessions.

A streaky scorer, Pargo missed just one of his five field-goal attempts in the quarter and scored 14 points.

“When adversity hit we got our heads down,” Bucks forward John Henson said. “But that’s good this is happening now and we can correct it in game three of the postseason rather than game 15 of the regular season. I don’t think it’s going to happen again.

“It was a bad loss. Even if it was preseason, pickup or practice, that’s a bad loss. We have to correct it and get better.”

Being as it’s still very early in the preseason, the Bucks weren’t too worked up over the blown lead and cited this as another step in the learning process. Drew did feel the team got better Saturday night, even if it ended in ugly fashion.

“The last step now is gelling together in crunch time situations,” Bucks center Larry Sanders said. “This is the third game and we are still getting to know each other. We made progress in a lot of great areas. There’s things to learn from. You can’t learn unless you make mistakes. We’ll go back and watch film, go in the lab and see where we let down.”

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