The Milwaukee Bucks clinched a playoff spot on Wednesday without playing a game. With four games left to play, they still could have a say in who they’ll face in the opening round of the playoffs. But you would never know it by the way they played Thursday night, falling to the Brooklyn Nets 119-111 at the Bradley Center.
The Nets, who have been eliminated from any post-season thoughts long ago, should have been the team that was playing out the string. Instead, it was the Bucks, who continue to show a lack of energy and lack of desire on the defensive end of the floor.
Defending the three-point shot has been a problem for the Bucks all season long. They talk about trying to fix it, but talk is cheap.
On Thursday night, while making just 5 of 20 three-point shots (25%) themselves, the Nets hit 19 of 39 from distance (48.7%). Many of their looks were wide open as the Bucks either didn’t rotate on time, or didn’t even attempt to run at the shooters.
What more can Joe Prunty say? When asked after the game, he said, “We didn’t defend it very well. Defended it very poorly.”
The Bucks did get 31 points from Khris Middleton but got just 19 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo (7 of 21) and 13 points from Jabari Parker (6 of 21).
At times, the Bucks forced the issue inside, but didn’t fare well there either. The Nets also blocked 12 shots.
Brooklyn got 25 points and 5 three-pointers from Allen Crabbe and 22 points from D’Angelo Russell.
The Bucks failed to move in front of Washington after the Wizards fell to Cleveland. So the two teams remain tied for the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. But the Bucks need to finish in front of the Wizards because Washington owns the tiebreaker. Both teams have three games left.
The Bucks are in New York to face the Knicks on Saturday night.
Finishing in 7th place would most likely get the Bucks a first round playoff series with Boston. If the Bucks fall to 8th, then would then have to open the playoffs against top-seeded Toronto, a team they haven’t fared well against in the past.