Bucks aim to right ship as Blazers embark on road trip

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Giannis Antetokounmpo gets an opportunity to demonstrate that his extra free throw-shooting practice will pay dividends when the Milwaukee Bucks open a four-game homestand Monday night against the Damian Lillard-less Portland Trail Blazers.

The Bucks have lost four of six, including 110-102 at Philadelphia on Friday night in a visit that wound up being more headline-grabbing for what happened after the 48-minute affair had ended.

Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 14 rebounds in the loss but shot poorly at the foul line for the third consecutive game, going just 4-for-15.

He responded by returning to the court well after the game for additional work, only to find the arena crew already partway into its nightly routine.

Antetokounmpo wound up pushing a ladder out of the way — it crashed to the court — to attempt to complete a 10-shot drill and found himself having to explain himself afterward following a run-in with the 76ers’ Montrezl Harrell, who seized the Bucks star’s basketball.

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Antetokounmpo got in eight of his 10 shots, then noted it’s not a technical flaw that’s resulted in him going 19-for-44 in his last three games.

“I’m just not making them. Simple as that,” he observed. “I don’t think there’s no issue. The ball is not going in.”

The same could be said of the Bucks’ shooting in general. They have shot just 42.6 percent overall and 34.1 percent on 3-pointers in their last six games, during which they have lost to the Atlanta Hawks twice, San Antonio Spurs and 76ers by an average of 15 points.

The Bucks have yet to see the Trail Blazers this season. When the clubs last met on Valentine’s Day nine months ago, Portland came away with a 122-107 road win, taking advantage of Antetokounmpo’s absence.

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The Trail Blazers didn’t have Lillard in that one, and like Antetokounmpo, he probably wishes he could have his last performance back. He shot just 2-for-14 overall and 1-for-12 on 3-pointers in a 118-113 home loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday night before leaving in the third quarter with right calf tightness.

The 13-point effort was six points fewer than any previous game this season.

Lillard indicated afterward he planned to take some time off to get the lingering issue right. He had played in six of Portland’s seven games since sitting out four in a row bridging October and November with the same problem.

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“I took off running back on defense and felt like it tightened up,” he reported afterward. “I could tell it was irritated. I kind of had a conversation with myself. I wanted to see how I felt. I was sitting for two weeks. I didn’t want to go out there and do the same thing over again. I came out and let them look at it, and that was it.”

Anfernee Simons exploded for 31 points in Lillard’s absence in February’s trip to Milwaukee. He had a team-high 23 points Saturday against Utah.

Portland, which has lost three of four since a 9-3 start, will play its next four games on the road. The trip continues at Cleveland, New York and Brooklyn, forcing the club to spend Thanksgiving away from home.

–Field Level Media

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