‘This could not have gone a lot worse’



6:38 PM ET

Malika AndrewsESPN

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo has a ritual after losses.

He walks into the locker room, undresses, wraps a towel round his decrease physique, places protecting covers on his toes and plunks his ft right into a purple bucket that’s stuffed to the brim with ice water. Really, he ices after each sport, however after losses he does it for longer. After losses, he soaks in silence. He’s pondering.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ coaching workers by no means retains him ready. Halfway via the fourth quarter, the bucket is full.

On Sunday, after the Bucks’ 112-90 loss to the Boston Celtics, Antetokounmpo sat in silence along with his head disapprovingly shaking each jiffy. He glanced on the field rating and exhaled. He fastidiously folded it in half and set it in his locker, little question so he may pour over it once more later. When he lastly rose, he did so slowly, sliding his mammoth ft into his bathe footwear.

“What was I pondering?” Antetokounmpo stated. “It would not matter what I used to be pondering. Clearly, it was one of many hardest checks we have ever had all season lengthy.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks did not appear to be the group that gained an NBA-best 60 video games. AP Picture/Morry Gash

It is unattainable to get in between Antetokounmpo’s ears, however it’s affordable to assume he was replaying Al Horford and Aron Baynes collapsing in on him all sport. He may’ve been pondering of his one-point first quarter. The field rating he had tucked away informed Antetokounmpo that the Celtics had outscored the Bucks by 24 factors when he was on the court docket, tied for the worst plus-minus of his playoff profession (Sport 6 at Toronto within the 2017 first spherical).

As one Bucks entrance workplace member put it: “This could not have gone a lot worse.”

In some ways, Sunday’s sport did signify the worst doable state of affairs for the Bucks: Their Three-pointers weren’t falling, their protection wobbled, their bench was outclassed and the Celtics’ protection prevented Antetokounmpo from slashing to the basket the best way he has all season lengthy.

The very best-volume three-point taking pictures group within the NBA not named the Houston Rockets went 13-for-39 from past the arc. Three gamers — Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Nikola Mirotic — mixed for 9 of these 13. No different Buck hit a couple of.

Milwaukee’s bench did not present a lot further assist. Pat Connaughton — the Bucks’ shock spark within the first spherical — scored simply 5 factors towards the Celtics. In a single sport towards the Pistons, Connaughton gave Milwaukee a defensive increase with 4 blocks. On Sunday, the Bucks have been outscored by 21 factors when Connaughton was on the ground.

Antetokounmpo’s makes an attempt to drive to the ring have been largely unfruitful. He shot Three-for-17 on contested photographs in Sport 1. And with Horford and Baynes getting the majority of the defensive task, Antetokounmpo shot 27 % (Four-of-15) within the paint, his worst share within the paint in a sport this season. Throughout one missed drive the place Antetokounmpo was fouled, he smacked the stanchion in clear frustration.

Antetokounmpo completed with 22 laborious factors and shot simply 7-of-21 from the sphere. Khris Middleton, who stored the Bucks within the sport early, completed with 16 factors. However Brook Lopez — who earned the nickname Splash Mountain for his capability to nail deep threes — had simply three factors within the sport. He was 1-of-Four from past the arc. Eric Bledsoe had simply six factors in 25 minutes.

“I will inform the fellows to overlook about it,” Middleton informed ESPN. “It is just one sport. One unhealthy sport cannot be a domino impact. It might’t preserve going. Now we have to start out recent and get again to what we do.”

All season lengthy, the knock on the Bucks has been that they’re a daily season group who lacks the expertise to carry out underneath strain within the playoffs. These voices started to fade after they swept the Detroit Pistons in Spherical 1, however the murmurs reappeared shortly on Sunday.

The Bucks are giving themselves the remainder of the night to wallow earlier than returning to the gymnasium, clear-eyed, on Monday. They plan reboot, watch movie and determine methods to regulate to the defensive coverages the Celtics are throwing at Antetokounmpo.

“Giannis, as nice as he is been all 12 months, he hasn’t been good each evening,” coach Mike Budenholzer stated. “He is exhausting on himself, so there’ll most likely be some level the place I put my arms round him and inform him, ‘You are going to be nice.’ I believe Giannis will play higher and we are going to work on some issues between now and Tuesday.”

TEAMSeries ResultRound2019 Bucks*?Conf. semis vs. Celtics2017 SpursWonConf. semis vs. Rockets2009 Path BlazersLost1st spherical vs. Rockets1996 SpursLostConf. semis vs. Jazz1985 BucksLostConf. semis vs. 76ers*No. 1 seed in convention

Maybe there may be gentle on the finish of the tunnel for Milwaukee. In spite of everything, the San Antonio Spurs — the final residence group to lose a Sport 1 by 20+ factors — went on to win the collection. In the course of the common season, the Bucks solely misplaced one set of back-to-back video games: They fell in consecutive video games to Utah and Phoenix on the street in early March.

“The one individuals which are going to imagine in us and combat for us are the individuals on this locker room,” Connaughton informed ESPN. “That’s what now we have to lean on after getting punched within the mouth in Sport 1.”

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