1:03 AM ET
Eric Woodyards pen.
The atmosphere in the Milwaukee Bucks’ locker room was pretty quiet after Tuesday night’s (124-113) loss against host Toronto Raptors, according to rookie Bobby Portis.
But while MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged his frustration after a fourth consecutive defeat, he said there was no reason why the team could not remain focused and calm.
I feel like everyone is panicking, which shouldn’t be the case, said Antetokounmpo, who scored 34 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and five steals in the loss. We have to keep getting better, we have to keep playing good basketball, we have to watch film, and at the end of the day we have to get on the court and compete. When you’re here, nothing’s easy.
Once again, the fourth quarter proved to be the Achilles’ heel for the Bucks, who lost 12-4 in the final five minutes.
They are now 0-9 after three quarters this season, and they entered the evening with the second-highest percentage of game wins during the clutch, with 22 percent this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Only the Detroit Pistons (20%) are worse.
Clutch time is defined as any time when the score is less than five points in the last five minutes, and may occur at any time during this period.
Last time we lost four in a row; we’re not going home, Antetokounmpo said. We’re still here. It’s not the playoffs. It’s frustrating, of course. We want to win, especially in a game like this. Great game, guys play hard.
You want to win the game, but it doesn’t always go the way you want. But you should always look on the bright side. You’ll get another chance on Thursday. So get better, watch the movie, get better, make sure everyone is okay, and it’s not the end of the world now.
Milwaukee played without Jrue Holiday for the fifth consecutive time as he continues to evade health and safety protocols. Antetokounmpo said the Bucs no longer had a vacation from the field.
We have to be better than that. Obviously, one of our best players in the team, the playmakers and the best defenders in the team are not playing, he said. Of course, that’s no excuse. I’m not a man who makes excuses for himself. But it’s a big part of who we are, and we need it.
Raptors’ guard Fred VanVleet set the Bucks on fire with 33 points, seven assists and four boards in his fifth 30-point game this season. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry finished with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists in 22 minutes, despite a left ankle injury that forced him to the sidelines in the third quarter.
Milwaukee (16-12) has not lost four in a row to the Raptors, who became NBA champions this season, since the 2019 Eastern Conference finals.
These teams meet Thursday in the Fiserv Forum, where the Bucks hope for a change.
Nobody is happy with the result, nobody feels good, but your process and the way you approach it, you have to go back and look at things and see where you can improve, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Earlier in the day, the Bucks also announced at a press conference that they would be inviting fans to their next three games, which will only be open to the players’ families and guests. They started Tuesday with 250 fans and will increase that number to 500 for Thursday’s game and to 750 on Friday before opening the games to the general public starting Sunday when about 1,800 fans will be admitted.
Even with the return of the fans, they couldn’t avoid a last-minute defeat.
Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse, who has played Milwaukee multiple times, including in the postseason, said he didn’t see the Bucks continue to struggle.
In a normal year, I’d probably be a little surprised. But I think there’s a lot going on in the league, a lot of teams, and as many teams on a few games as .500 and a few less, like probably more than half the league, Nurse said. I don’t look at it like that. So I think they definitely have all the pieces, they have the depth, they have the experience, they have it all; and I think they are one of those teams that will play better in the second half and prepare for a long run of playoffs. They have all the tools they need.
frequently asked questions
Why is Giannis leaving the Bucks?
However, in an interview with ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbart, Antetokounmpo revealed that another major factor in his decision was his teammates and the mental stress his upcoming free agency would place on them.
What did Giannis Antetokounmpo say about Harden?
Giannis takes Harden for a ride: I want someone to pass the ball!
Will Giannis Antetokounmpo leave the Milwaukee Bucks?
Those moves – in addition to the decisions of Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez not to commit for 2020-21 – leave the Bucs with only Antetokounmpo, Chris Middelton, Brook Lopez and Giannis’ brother, Thanasis, under contract since last season.