MILWAUKEE — The Bucks have developed a bad habit over the course of the season that has led to stern locker room speeches from Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks have an impressive record and boast the best offensive rating in the league, but they’ve been outscored by their opponents in first quarters this season thanks to some slow starts.
By halftime, Denver’s lead mounted to 10.
“We definitely need to fix it,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said after the game, the eighth in which the Bucks have trailed at the end of the first quarter — of 16 games this season. “We have to do a better job trying to set the tone. I think we did a better job this game, but we can do a lot better. But talent always saves us. I feel like we’re so talented that when were down 10, down 15, we can always get back in the game. But we know that down the road, that is not going to help us. We have to be able to set the tone and have control of the full game.”
The Bucks’ largest first quarter deficit this season came Friday when they found themselves down 13 points to the Chicago Bulls. Usually, that is when the switch is flipped. Milwaukee is the NBA’s best second-quarter team and has shown the ability to bounce back from large deficits in multiple recent games.
But on Friday, the Bucks trailed Chicago by 18 at the half. Monday’s game against the Nuggets marked the second time this season that Milwaukee has trailed by double digits at halftime.
“In subtle ways, hopefully we’re thinking about it, talking about it, addressing it,” Budenholzer said. “I think we’d all like to start better.”
The Bucks outscored the Nuggets 32-21 in the third quarter to allow them to gain a one-point lead over the Nuggets. Antetokounmpo scored 15 of his 29 points in that quarter. The team forced six Nuggets turnovers in the quarter. That burst helped the Bucks go on to claim a 104-98 win.
“I don’t want to overreact,” Budenholzer said. “In a perfect world, you’d be great for all four quarters. That is kind of our goal, our mission, to play better for more of the 48 minutes than our opponent.”