Two teams that started the season on fire but have cooled off considerably in the past week square off Wednesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks host the Cleveland Cavaliers in a Central Division matchup.
After winning their first seven home games, the Bucks finally lost at home Monday night when they fell to the Atlanta Hawks, 121-106, and suddenly they are not looking quite so formidable.
After starting the season 9-0, the Bucks have dropped three of four heading into their home game against the Cavaliers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a two-game absence due to a sore left knee to lead Milwaukee with 27 points in 31 minutes. Antetokounmpo made 8 of 21 shots, missing all three 3-point attempts, and was 11 of 18 from the free-throw line.
“When was the last time I played, like six or seven days ago, a week ago?” Antetokounmpo said. “But that’s part of it. You can’t get too low or get too high. It’s part of it. You can’t expect to be at your best when you haven’t played for a week.”
The Bucks were just 6-for-29 from 3-point range in Monday’s loss.
“It’s going to be a hard sport if you can’t make them pay from beyond the line,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’ll take a look at the film and what kind of shots we got. If they’re good shots, we’re not going to change.
“You’ve got to be able to make them. You never know when the dam’s going to break. We’ve been emphasizing offensive rebounding. If you’re not making shots, then there’s lots of shots to go get. It didn’t feel like we did the job that was needed on the offensive boards if we’re going to shoot that percentage from the three-point line.”
Adding to the pain of losing to the Hawks for the second time in four games, the Bucks sustained two more injuries when Grayson Allen suffered an ankle sprain and Wesley Matthews tweaked a hamstring.
Also scary, in the second quarter, Antetokounmpo fell awkwardly at the end of a fast break and grabbed his left ankle, but to the Bucks’ relief he popped back up and stayed in the game. He was not listed Tuesday on the Bucks’ injury report.
Milwaukee is already without the services of forward Khris Middleton (wrist surgery) and guard Pat Connaughton (right calf strain), and guard Jrue Holiday (right ankle sprain) has missed the past three games.
Cleveland’s Darius Garland nearly led the Cavaliers to a dramatic late rally Sunday at home against Minnesota. Garland recorded the biggest fourth quarter in franchise history — scoring 27 of his 51 points in the final 12 minutes — before the Cavaliers fell, 129-125. The 51 were the most scored in the NBA this season, until Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid put 59 on later Sunday.
After winning eight straight, Cleveland enters Wednesday on a four-game skid.
The Cavaliers trailed the Timberwolves by as many as 24 and were down 17 in the fourth before Garland led the comeback that brought Cleveland within two. In that fourth-quarter rally, Garland set the team mark by going 8-of-16 from the floor, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
“It’s special, especially all things considered. But that’s what Darius is capable of,” Cavaliers veteran Kevin Love said. “He shot the ball extremely well from three, he got to his spots and kept us right there at the end. And that’s all you can ask. But an incredible performance, master class by Darius. And we’re hoping for many from him.”
Cleveland played Sunday without Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen and Dean Wade, all sidelined with leg injuries.
With his team short-handed, Love made his first start of the season Sunday, chipping in 14 points, to go with five boards and four assists in 29 minutes. Caris LeVert finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, adding five rebounds and five assists.
–Field Level Media