Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Bucks got a heavy dose of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's shooting brilliance early, but a monster third from Brandon Jennings and a late knockout punch from Monta Ellis were enough for the Bucks to hold off the much-improved Warriors at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Call it reunion night at the BC.
Andrew Bogut was in the house (in a suit, natch), Monta Ellis was facing his former mates for the second time, Carl Landry was back home in Milwaukee, and Ekpe Udoh, Mike Dunleavy, and Richard Jefferson were also facing off against their former clubs for the first time this season. Oh, and the whole Bucks beating the Warriors in Milwaukee thing? Yeah, that's still happening, too.
Call it a good win in the grand scheme of the universe--make no mistake, this is a good Warrior team--but don't confuse it for a comprehensive showcase of everything the Bucks do well. Milwaukee managed to win just one quarter out of four, but the Brandon Jennings-inspired 35-18 demolition job in the third quarter provided just enough buffer for Ellis and the Bucks to win their fourth straight over Golden State at the BC.
A night after struggling in the Warriors' loss in Chicago, Steph Curry (20 of his 26 points in the first half, 8/19 fg, 7 ast) and Klay Thompson (12 of his 19 points in the first half, 8/21 fg overall) wasted no time showing off their lights-out touch in the early going, burning the Bucks repeatedly on catch-and-shoot opportunities. But the Warriors' inability to snag a defensive rebound allowed the Bucks to keep it close even with Ellis (1/8 fg to start the game) and Jennings (no points and just one shot in the first half) offering little to counter the Warrior backcourt's big first half.
Credit Larry Sanders (12 of his 16 pts in the first half, 11 rebs, 3 blk), and Mike Dunleavy (9 of his 11 in the first two quarters) with keeping the Bucks in it. Sanders had three putbacks and a long jumper (!) in the first six minutes of the game alone, while his length twice smothered all-star David Lee down low in the same span. Working with a hodgpodge unit of Beno Udrih, Marquis Daniels, Ekpe Udoh and Sam Dalembert, Dunleavy then went to work with the reserve unit, hitting three triples to start the second quarter as Milwaukee recovered from its early deficit to lead 34-30. Golden State's shooters came right back at them, though, as Curry and Thompson's combined 13 second quarter points helped the Warriors rip off runs of 12-4 and 13-5 that staked Mark Jackson's club to a 55-51 halftime edge.
All of which set up another virtuoso third quarter from Jennings. While it wasn't quite the 29-point explosion he laid on the Warriors as part of his 55-point game back in the fall of 2009, it was damn close. After taking just a single shot in the opening half, Jennings buried a right wing three and drove for a layup to start the period, and subsequently stroked four more threes in quick succession to give him 17 points in a mere 6:32. Jennings finally missed on a ridiculous contested transition pull-up triple (can you say heat-check), but even that rimmed out. And honestly, everyone in the building kind of expected it to go in--because that's just the upside of the madness of Brandon Jennings.
When all was said and done, Jennings' 18-point blitz put the Bucks up 12 to start the fourth, but if you thought the Bucks were going to run away and hide...well, you clearly don't know what it's like to be a Bucks fan. Jefferson's nifty reverse capped an 8-0 run that narrowed the lead to 86-82, but a pair of open Ilyasova jumpers keyed an 8-0 response. The game yo-yoed back and forth from there, but the Warriors could never get over the hump as both teams played three-guard lineups for much of the fourth. While Jennings' shot once again abandoned him (0/5 fg in the fourth, though he probably deserved trips to the line on a couple of them), he set up three baskets, snagged four rebounds (two offensive) and gamely defended Curry, whose fourth quarter contributions were limited to a pair of tough catch-and-shoot threes.
The final minute still had its nervous moments, namely after Jarrett Jack's three narrowed the lead to 100-98 with just 53 seconds remaining. Thankfully, Ellis picked a great time to finally get his game going. With the crowd on its feet, the Warriors brought Lee out to double Ellis in the corner, forcing Monta into retreat with the shot clock running down inside five seconds. But despite missing his first four threes of the game, Ellis found bottom on his fifth, sending the crowd into a frenzy and restoring the Bucks' lead to 103-98 with 33 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession Lee would get called for a travel on what could have easily been a charge drawn by Ilyasova, and from there on out it was left to Ellis to salt the game away from the foul line (4/4 ft).
Larry Sanders. Back in November, 16 points and 11 rebounds from Sanders would have been cause for mass celebrations. Now? Well, it's just another night at the office for the Bucks' breakout star of the season, who compounded his efficient offensive contributions (7/9 fg, 2/2 ft) with terrific defense on Lee. Sanders' length caused Lee all sorts of problems around the basket (6/18 fg), including a couple of big stops on Lee in the fourth quarter as well.
Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova shot under 50% from the field for the first time in four games, but it says a lot about Ilyasova's progression that he still managed to pile up 18 points and 12 boards for his third double-double in seven days.
Brandon Jennings. Neither Jennings nor Ellis managed any consistency quarter-to-quarter, but Brandon's monster third and his steady passing (7 assists, 1 to) went a long way to offsetting Curry's hot start. Not that it surprised Jim Boylan.
"Brandon likes to play, so I knew he was going to come out and do something," Boylan said. "He got himself going. He's a competitor.
"He was trying to move the ball a little bit in the first half, but we needed a scorer, so he came out in the second half and did what he needed to do for our team. And that's what he's done for us all year, and that's what we expect from him."
58-50. A fast pace and plenty of misses left a ton of rebounds to grab, and the Bucks' offensive rebounding (22-12 edge, 37% ORB%) left them +8 overall.
0/8. Other than his 6/6 flurry in the first half of the third quarter, Jennings missed all eight of his shots. He's so weird.
25.5/12.3. Believe it or not, those are Ilyasova's scoring and rebounding averages over the last four games.
Brandon's third, Monta's fourth. For the second straight night Jennings did all his damage in the third; last night it wasn't good enough, tonight it was. And for the latter he can thank Ellis, who scored nine in the final two minutes to send his former teammates home with a loss.
Ersan's consistency. While Jennings has been all feast or famine, Ilyasova was slow and steady tonight--in a good way. I assume Kyrie Irving will take this week's player of the week honors, but Ilyasova would have had a strong claim for the award if not for the Bucks' collapse in Cleveland on Friday. More please.
10 games in. The Bucks have won four of five and registered offensive efficiency numbers better than their season averages in each of their last four games. They also improved to 7-3 during Jim Boylan's 10-game head coaching tenure, during which they've tallied 104.0 pts/100 possessions offensively and 100.3 defensively--compared to 100.0/100.5 overall. So basically the Bucks have been less awful offensively while playing the same pretty good defense, but even the offensive story isn't one of dramatic changes. They're shooting slightly better, nabbing slightly more offensive rebounds, and playing at a much faster pace. Small things, but big improvements in the win column.
Brandon and Monta's first half. Ellis looked to be pressing against his former teammates early on, missing seven of his first eight shots, while Jennings uncharacteristically wasn't shooting at all. Thankfully Sanders, Ilyasova, and company were around to offer the Bucks plenty of reloads, or the Bucks could have found themselves down double-digits at intermission.
Henson sits. Getting some rare run with the second unit, Sam Dalembert wasn't half-bad. But I'll still take my chances with John Henson, who DNP-CD'd for the first time since Boylan took over as coach.