On Monday, Doc Rivers made his coaching debut for the Milwaukee Bucks in a tough baptism of fire against the Denver Nuggets. It didn’t go as he would have liked, however, with the reigning champions carving out a 113-107 victory.
Behind Nikola Jokic’s triple-double and Jamal Murray’s scoring outburst, Denver held off a late Bucks rally to seal the win. After the game, Rivers commended the team’s effort on defense.
“I told our guys ‘anyone who told you you couldn’t play defense lied. You proved that tonight, you competed tonight,’” Rivers said, per Bally Sports Wisconsin. “Our halfcourt defense was excellent and we fought tonight. I thought tonight was an offensive loss.”
Bucks fall to the Nuggets in Rivers’ debut
The Bucks started strong, building up a 13-point lead in the first quarter. However, the Nuggets fought back, keeping the game close throughout the second and third quarter. In the final period, Denver’s lead ballooned to nine with over three minutes left in regulation. The Bucks then put an effort into one last run led by Giannis Antetokounmpo. Still, it fell short as a clutch Aaron Gordon block and free throws garnered Denver the win.
Regardless of the result, Doc Rivers saw the positives in his new team.
“That fight is there. That’s something really encouraging moving forward,” the veteran coach said.
Antetokounmpo finished with a double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds for the Bucks. Brook Lopez and Damian Lillard added 19 and 18 points, respectively.
Despite the loss, Milwaukee still sits in second place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll look to bounce back on Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers — Lillard’s former team.