The Milwaukee Bucks quietly closed out their eighth and final seeding game of the NBA restart Thursday with a 119-106 loss to Memphis.
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Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo defends against Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks in the first half. (Photo: Kim Klement, Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
The Milwaukee Bucks quietly closed out their eighth and final seeding game of the NBA restart Thursday, playing out the string with a 119-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at the Visa Athletic Center in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
It was a game that meant everything to the Grizzlies, with the victory locking them into the Western Conference’s play-in game and allowing them to continue their season. Dillon Brooks started hot and led all scorers with 31 points, Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas recorded his first career triple-double with 26 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists while presumptive Rookie of the Year Ja Morant added 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double of his own.
For the Bucks, which were playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo (league suspension) and three other veterans, the outcome wouldn’t have had an impact either way. Despite a 3-5 record in the « bubble, » the Bucks end the regular season with the best record in the NBA at 56-17, a few games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers, the best team in the West which also went 3-5 in seeding games.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer opted to play his remaining three usual starters 20 minutes apiece while riding his bench the rest of the game, though the Bucks never got much traction even when Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez were in the game.
Middleton, the only Milwaukee player who had something tangible to strive for in the game, fell short in his quest of becoming just the fifth player to shoot 50% from the floor, 40% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line while averaging 20 or more points per game over a full season. He opened the game 0 for 4 and couldn’t dig out of that hole, finishing with 14 points on 5 of 13 shooting — figures that put him five missed shots short of shooting 50% on the year.
For the season, Middleton — a likely all-NBA player — finished with easily the best stats of his eight-year career. He averaged 20.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 49.7% from the field, 41.5% on three-pointers and 91.6% at the foul line in just 29.9 minutes per game.
Lopez continued his restart resurgence Thursday, collecting a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds in the loss. Frank Mason III added 18 points in 26 minutes off the bench while Donte DiVincenzo had one of his best performances of the summer with 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting to go with four rebounds and four assists in 19 minutes.
Overall, though, it was far from an impressive outing from the Bucks. Eric Bledsoe never got going (1 of 8 from the floor), Sterling Brown came back to earth after a career night against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and the Bucks shot just 39.4% while failing to slow the Grizzlies at any point in the game.
It was clear from the jump it was a game Memphis wanted and needed much more. The Grizzlies’ urgency was almost palpable.
The Bucks didn’t mail it in, but they were certainly aware that their goals didn’t hinge on the day’s outcome.
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