By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Mar 20, 2015 at 1:05 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

No one said culture change would be easy.

In the last month, the Milwaukee Bucks are finding out just how difficult it is to win NBA games against playoff-caliber opponents on a nightly basis as a team that suffered just one three game losing streak through its first 54 games is now in the midst of its second in its last 14 contests.

The Bucks’ 114-103 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, in fact, marks the second four-game losing streak in the last four weeks and the team’s once solid position within the Eastern Conference playoff race has become far less stable.

The easy thing to do is lay this at the feet of the trade of Brandon Knight, the team’s best player and leading scorer, at the Feb. 19 trading deadline. Since that point, the Bucks are 4-11.

The trade’s impact was and is real, and cannot be entirely discounted, especially when it comes to finding the chemistry between new point guards Michael Carter-Williams and backup Tyler Ennis.

"We’re seeing a little bit (of chemistry)," veteran forward Jared Dudley said. "It’s slower than I think we imagined. I think that for us, we’re trying to find a rhythm. Roles have changed and we’re trying to fit into these right role. I haven’t played the best. Other players have been struggling at different times. But for us, we’re trying to win games while we figure it out and once we figure it out and we get back in our roles and get back in our rhythm we’re going to be a tough team."

Bucks head coach Jason Kidd added that "it takes time. I think when you look at the three guys over in San Antonio (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili) they’ve played over 500 games together. It takes time to learn each other. It doesn’t happen in 15 games. It doesn’t happen in 82 games. It takes a little time."

But, like most things in sports, it’s never just "one" thing when it comes to a rough patch during a season.

While on-court chemistry and role definition is being worked on, other factors have contributed to its slow down.

O.J. Mayo has played a total of 71 minutes, 6 seconds in three games (he’s missed nine) since Feb. 23. A key player off the bench, the Bucks have sorely missed the 11.9 points and 2.8 assists he was providing before injuring a hamstring.

Another key reserve, Jerryd Bayless, missed three games, including losses to Indiana and Memphis.

Dudley has missed four games, including the last three, but hasn’t looked right physically since late February with knee and back issues.

Even Carter-Williams has missed four games due to injury.

So, you have a team that, once again, is in need of time together, learning new roles, and four of those key players have been hobbled and missed time altogether.

But, more than that, this roster has a combined 121 games of playoff experience under its belt. Zaza Pachulia is the most experienced player in that regard, with 40 games under his belt after reaching the postseason with Atlanta from 2008-11. He is followed by Dudley (23), Bayless (23), Mayo (20), Ersan Ilyasova (13) and John Henson (4).

Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Carter-Williams have never played on a winning team in their short NBA careers.

Miles Plumlee played 14 games in his rookie year in Indiana in 2012-13, but did not participate in the postseason as the Pacers advanced to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

"I don’t think we realize how hard it is to get into the playoffs, first of all," Pachulia said. "This is something I was thinking lately. That each individual player, going around the board, how many times has been in the playoffs in their careers? I don’t think more than 50 percent? There’s some players who have been (there) 80, 90, 100 percent of their careers in the playoffs. Very few. But in this locker room, not really. Some of the players even haven’t been in the playoffs. I don’t think we realize how hard it is to be a playoff team."

The postgame message had to be about effort, as Kidd and his players talked about defensive discipline and executing for a full 48 minutes.

What’s the answer?

"Just play hard," Middleton said.

Is it more than that, though?

Not to the head coach.

"We’ve got to put more effort into the game," Kidd said. "We’ve got 14 games left, so, there’ plenty of time. Take one game at a time. We’re in the sixth spot. Continue to get better And we’ve got to get healthy."

And, not to several of the veterans with playoff experience.

"Right now, here we are, sixth spot, sixth seed, still. And we don’t appreciate it," Pachulia said. "It is not good. It is not good. We all need to get in there and start playing hard again. If we haven’t done it during the season probably we say yeah we’re still young, learning, yeah we’re young and learning but we’ve beaten great teams before, beat West, from East, we’ve done it. Home. Road.

"This thing is correctable. This is something we can definitely correct. We can correct it at any time. We just have to perform better."

Pachulia said the team hasn’t been disciplined for an entire 48 minutes during this recent stretch of losses, and Ilyasova noted they are giving up easy baskets and losing their man on the defensive end.

But, "absolutely we can turn the corner," Pachulia said.

"It’s never easy to win," Ilyasova said. "Especially when we play against San Antonio. Obviously it was a tough loss (against New Orleans on Tuesday) and we kind of had a chance to win but we (are) kind of in the right place, I would say. We can build on those things. When you look at couple of those games on the road, we were right there at the end of the game. That’s what it’s all about – close those doors. Just work on those things, what we’re supposed to do, obviously think (Thursday) about what we did wrong and right and hopefully go into Brooklyn and we try to win the game."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.