Deemed an Eastern Conference contender after their 7-0 start, the Milwaukee Bucks have developed an annoying habit of ordinary performances.
Wednesday night in Indianapolis was another such performance.
Whipped soundly on both ends of the floor, the Bucks were every bit as bad as the final score indicated in a 113-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Maybe even worse.
The Bucks (18-9) shot horribly in the first half, falling behind by as many as 19. The deficit reached 21 in the third quarter, and every stretch of inspired Milwaukee play quickly fell apart.
Tyreke Evans gave the Pacers a 35-25 lead with 10:48 left in the second quarter. From that point on, the Bucks spent just 15 seconds of the last 34:48 within single digits.
Eric Bledsoe’s step-back jumper pulled Milwaukee within 101-93 with 4:25 left. Indiana called time out, and the idea the Bucks could complete the comeback was not far-fetched.
Instead, the Bucks allowed a wide-open 3-pointer by Myles Turner, and never challenged again.
Turner scored 23 points, including 4-of-6 shooting on 3-pointers. He entered the game shooting 27% ;behind the arc. Thaddeus Young led the Pacers (18-10) with 25 points, as the Pacers’ frontcourt owned Milwaukee’s frontcourt.
Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied just 12 points and had just seven field goal attempts in 31 minutes. He posted a plus-minus figure of minus-31. Khris Middleton (4 of 18, 0 for 7 on threes) and Brook Lopez combined to make just nine of 34 shots. The Bucks shot just 41.3%, a figure dragged down by a wretched 11-for-43 showing on 3-pointers.
With all those missed shots, the Bucks also got clobbered on the boards, 55-43.
Middleton’s night continued a horrible run. He hasn’t made half of his shots in a game since going 8 for 14 against San Antonio on Nov. 24. In seven game since, he’s 29 of 99 (29.3%). That span includes a game where he was benched for the fourth quarter and overtime in a loss at New York.
Until the Bucks get Middleton back on track, they’re not likely to be better than ordinary. Since their 7-0 start, the Bucks are a mediocre 11-9.
How mediocre were they on Wednesday night? After falling behind 6-0 in the first 1:51, the Bucks never again had a possession where they could take the lead.
Yes, it’s a long season, and too much importance should not be put on one game. But contenders don’t allow themselves to be pushed around. The Pacers basically kicked sand in the Bucks’ faces.
If not for Bledsoe’s 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting, the Bucks would have been blown out by 30.