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Bucks, Pelicans meet, intent on moving past tough defeats

Mar 24, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and guard Damian Lillard (0) during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Neither the New Orleans Pelicans nor the Milwaukee Bucks have much time to fret about a disappointing loss.

The Pelicans overcame a 20-point, third-quarter deficit to take a five-point, fourth-quarter lead, then faded down the stretch of a 119-112 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.

On the same night, the Bucks squandered a 19-point, fourth-quarter lead and lost 128-124 to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers in double overtime even though LeBron James didn’t play.

The Pelicans and Bucks will both look to bounce back on Thursday night when they meet in New Orleans.

“We should be relishing these moments,” said Pelicans coach Willie Green, whose team will host the Boston Celtics on Saturday to complete the first half of a six-game homestand. “We have three games against high-level opponents every other day. This should prepare us for the postseason.”

Zion Williamson led the Pelicans (44-28) with 29 points and 10 assists on Tuesday, but neither he nor any of his teammates could score a single point after New Orleans took a 112-107 lead with 3:11 remaining. The Pelicans went 0-for-5 from the field down the stretch with a turnover.

“This is the NBA. That’s the beauty in it. … We’ll watch film, see what we could have done better and try to redeem ourselves (against the Bucks),” Williamson said. “This is what being competitive is all about.

“I’ve always said it: These games are fun to play. We didn’t get the result we wanted (Tuesday), but games like this, when I watch playoff basketball, this is what games are like — down to the wire, teams making runs and whoever stays more disciplined gets the win. So, I’m excited for this stretch.”

Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado called the loss “a great learning experience,” and Giannis Antetokounmpo had a similar description of the Bucks’ loss to the Lakers.

“We’ve got to watch this game, learn from this game,” said Antetokounmpo, who had a triple-double with 29 points, a season-high 21 rebounds and 11 assists. “Watch why we weren’t able to get a stop, watch why the ball wasn’t moving down the stretch, watch why we lost the game, watch why there was a lot of 50-50 balls and we weren’t able to get them.”

Damian Lillard scored 27 points, and his jumper gave Milwaukee (46-26) a 94-75 lead with 8:25 left in the fourth quarter before Los Angeles finished regulation with a 26-7 run to force overtime.

“Sometimes the ball just bounces different,” Lillard said, “and if you don’t stay disciplined and do the things that go into how we built that lead, those leads can go away quick in this league with the shooting that’s in the league. … That’s what happened.”

In a scheduling quirk, this is the second time this season that the Pelicans have played the Bucks in between games against the Thunder and the Celtics. The first trio of games didn’t go well. New Orleans lost at home to Oklahoma City, 107-83, on Jan. 26, was routed 141-117 by host Milwaukee the next night and lost at Boston, 118-112, two nights after that.

The Bucks led New Orleans by as many as 34 points in their final game under interim coach Joe Prunty before Doc Rivers became the full-time replacement for the fired Adrian Griffin.

–Field Level Media

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