Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
After a slow start, the Milwaukee Bucks outscored the Phoenix Suns by 15 in the second half to run away with a victory in Jim Boylan's debut as the team's head coach. It wasn't always pretty, but few Bucks wins this season have been so.
With a 108-99 win over the Phoenix Suns, head coach Jim Boylan now has the highest winning percentage in Milwaukee Bucks history.
Sure it may be 1-0, but 0-1 sets an equally rushed narrative that does little justice to a Bucks team that, for the most part, played a game we've seen many times this season.
In a sluggish first half performance, the Bucks fouled up a storm (11-12 FTs for Phoenix), got chewed up inside by Marcin Gortat (14 points), and were listless defending fast breaks (11 Suns transition points), culminating in a six point deficit at the break.
However, Milwaukee fired up the jets over the final 24 minutes, gradually building up to a win by muscling up inside, capitalizing off the Suns' ever-present lack of ball control, and hitting six timely threes that ultimately put the game out of reach with a few minutes remaining in the fourth.
The lead changed hands eight times in the first half; in the second, it flipped only once on a Brandon Jennings three that gave Milwaukee the lead for good with 6:37 remaining in the third.
Working with a nine-man rotation, all five Bucks starters finished in double figures, along with two crucially efficient bench players. Brandon Jennings led the way with 29 points on a sexy 15 shots (5-7 3fg, 6-6 ft), 25 of which became official by the third quarter's end. He also contributed nine assists and committed just two turnovers. The rest of the starters left a lot of efficiency to be desired.
Luc Mbah a Moute contributed 11 points (5-11 fg, 1-1 3fg), four rebounds, and his regular solid defense. Ersan Ilyasova hit a couple drive-and-kick treys, scoring 12 points (5-10 fg, 2-4 3fg), grabbing six rebounds, and dishing four assists in his first start since November 24 in Chicago.
Larry Sanders, ever the crowd-pleaser, finished with 10 points (5-9 fg), eight rebounds, and six delicious blocks. Monta Ellis had the roughest night of all, putting up 13 points on 5-19 shots that were just as much a result of Gortat's stellar defense as they were Ellis' own selection.
Beno Udrih (10 pts, 5-6 fg, 2 asts, 2 rbs) and John Henson (12 pts, 4-7 fg, 4-7 ft, 11 rbs, 2 asts) were crucial bench contributors when the game was still in doubt, with Henson hitting 3/4 from the free throw line following a pair of Hack-a-Henson intentional fouls late in the fourth.
Overall, the Bucks shot 46.2% form the field compared to the Suns' 41.1% and scorched the nets from deep (9-17 3fg). They also turned 16 turnovers into 22 points, and held Phoenix to just 10 second half points in the paint.