The Clippers ended a four-game trip Thursday night with an uneven performance that resulted in a 128-118 loss to a Milwaukee Bucks team with the best record in the NBA and a most valuable player candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Clippers, who clinched a playoff spot in the rugged Western Conference with Tuesday’s victory at Minnesota, won three of the four games during the eight-day trip.
They had their NBA-best six-game winning streak snapped at the Fiserv Forum and dropped to the sixth seed in the West, a half game behind the Utah Jazz and a half game ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Clippers return home with a 45-31 record and six games left in the regular season.
“Oh, it was a great trip,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I would have taken 3-1 before we left. But we were greedy and would have loved to have gotten them all. But, a 3-1 road trip out East. …We go home (and) we have one road game left (at Golden State on April 7) for the rest of the season, which is nice. We get our legs under us. It’ll be great.”
It figured to be a difficult night for the Clippers because they rested Lou Williams, the team leader in scoring (20.3 points per game) and assists (5.3). Defensive guru Patrick Beverley didn’t play because of a right hip pointer suffered during the Timberwolves game.
The Clippers relied on their rookie backcourt of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet, who missed the previous game at Minnesota because of a left ankle impingement.
Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 21 points and six rebounds and Shamet added 13 points.
The Clippers got some very solid bench production even without Williams, their sixth-man extraordinaire.
JaMychal Green had 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench and Wilson Chandler had all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter. Chandler made all five of his three-point attempts in the fourth and missed just one of the six three-pointers in 17 minutes and 26 seconds.
But this night belonged to Antetokounmpo, who had 39 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He departed from the game with 7:46 left and didn’t return after he bumped into Garrett Temple. Antetokounmpo limped to the bench.
Antetokounmpo had been a big reason why the Clippers were down by 21 points at the half, trailed by 23 at the end of the third quarter and were down 26 in the fourth.
The Clippers twice pulled to within nine points of the Bucks (57-19) in the fourth but could get no closer.
“It was a good trip,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We won enough games. We clinched a playoff spot. So ultimately it was a good trip. We let this one slip, but we’ll be back at it next game.”
Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who played in just four games this season, had surgery on his left knee Wednesday and is expected to be out eight weeks.
The Clippers said Mbah a Moute underwent a partial medial meniscectomy, with a medial femoral condyle chondroplasty procedure in New York that was performed by Dr. Riley Williams at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Mbah a Moute, 32, averaged 5.0 points and 1.8 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per game.