MILWAUKEE -- For the past six games it's been variations of the same script for the Milwaukee Bucks. Hang around for as long as possible, then wilt under pressure from the opponent.
That's what happened yet again Wednesday night as the Bucks dropped their sixth consecutive game, this time falling to the Portland Trail Blazers, 91-82. Turnovers were Milwaukee's undoing as it coughed the ball up 19 times, including seven in the fourth quarter.
"In the fourth quarter we just are making mistakes and turnovers, unforced turnovers," said center Zaza Pachulia, admitting that the team has struggled to finish games all season.
It wasn't just the turnovers that did the Bucks in. After staying with the Blazers through the first half and trailing just, 53-51, at the break, Milwaukee sleep-walked through the opening two minutes of the third quarter and Portland took advantage with an 8-0 run to take a double-digit lead.
The Bucks spent the rest of the night swimming upstream and struggling against the Blazers defense, which held them to a paltry 31 second-half points.
"As I told the guys after the game, for us and this team right now our margin of error is very small," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "And margin of error does not necessarily mean turnovers. It means coming out at the start of the third quarter like we did."
Wednesday night was supposed to mark somewhat of a return to normalcy for the Bucks. After a stretch of four games in five days in which they battled through numerous injuries, Drew finally had the luxury of 12 available players.
That gift was also a curse as at times the Bucks still looked uncomfortable playing together. There has been very little continuity or rhythm for the team through its opening 10 games, and with the clock winding down it didn't look as if the Bucks knew how to come back or who needed to take control.
The result was careless turnovers and the Blazers running away with their eighth win in a row.
"With all the guys being injured and then you throw in we have 11 new guys anyway, it's a tough combination," said Luke Ridnour, who scored a team-high 13 points in his first start of the season.
"We can't use it as an excuse either; we've got to find a way to get some wins here and turn that around."
For all the struggles that the Bucks had in finding the right rotation, their bench turned in a solid effort with 40 points. In fact, Milwaukee had its biggest lead of the game -- six points -- with five bench players on the floor in the second quarter.
"I thought we fought," Drew said. "The guys who came in off the bench did a really good job. Nate (Wolters), Ersan (Ilyasova), John (Henson) and Khris Middleton, those guys gave us a big lift."
Gary Neal had 11 on 4-of-9 shooting, and Henson contributed 10 points and seven rebounds. In his first action since the home opener, Ilyasova had five points in nearly 22 minutes.
Regardless of who was on the floor for the Bucks, they had trouble stopping Portland's powerful offensive attack.
In the first quarter, former Marquette guard Wesley Matthews lit up the Bucks for 13 points. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 10 of his game-high 21 in the third quarter to give the Blazers a solid upper hand, and Damian Lillard put the game away with nine of his 19 points coming in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers shot 40.7 percent and made 11 of 31 three-pointers, but the damage could have been much worse. Portland's passing, which resulted in 26 assists, opened up plenty of open shots that if they had fallen would have made the final score much more lopsided.
"We shot 40 percent," Matthews said. "We haven't been shooting the ball well. I don't know how many games we shot over 45 percent, but we won a lot of games shooting under 45 percent."
The next chance for the Bucks to end their skid will come Friday at Philadelphia. If they want to change the script, they'll have a lot to figure out before then.
"I think we're still trying to figure it out," Ridnour said. "Like I said, we've got a lot of new guys who are just coming back into the rhythm of the game and we're trying to figure it out."
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