Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
In perhaps their most thrilling game of the season, the Milwaukee Bucks overcame an early 17 point deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 110-107 on an incredible buzzer beating three pointer from guard Monta Ellis.
Your ticket to amazing indeed.
What can we honestly say about the Milwaukee Bucks buzzer beating 110-107 win over the Houston Rockets that does the drama justice?
That the game's winning shot came off the fingers of Monta Ellis (27 pts, 9-24 fg, 7-11 ft, 13 asts, 6 rbs, 6 stls), a 23.2% shooter from deep (this season) that barely had one foot set while heaving desperation to the wind?
That Brandon Jennings (8 pts, 3-8 fg, 6 asts, 4 rbs) was called on in the clutch, only to botch his chance by picking up his dribble and deferring to an approaching Ellis, who stole the story and saved Jennings a bulk order of scrutiny?
That Milwaukee fell down by as much as 17 points in the first quarter (including a 20-4 start to the game), yet finished the frame shooting 60.9%?
That the Rockets connected on 12 of their first 13 shots, and finished the game with an astonishing 70 points in the painted area?
That the Rockets had runs of 21-4, 11-2, and 9-0, matched at various points by the Bucks' 11-4, 8-0, and 11-2 scoring bursts?
That the teams exchanged the lead 13 times, 12 of which came in the second half?
That Ellis spent more time at the charity stripe than James Harden (11 vs. 10 FT attempts)?
Sometimes, the best drama in sports creeps up on you, no matter the pre-game hype. That, more than anything, is why we watch.
It's likely we'll never see Monta Ellis (or Brandon Jennings, for that matter) in a Bucks uniform again in three months. But that shouldn't prevent you from enjoying one fleeting moment of unexpected, nearly impossible fun.
With that said...
Monta Ellis. Have we used up all the "Monta Ellis have it all" jokes yet? No? Never? Well this night, more than any other in his Milwaukee tenure, Ellis did have it all. He recorded six steals for the second night in a row (the first Buck to do so since Alvin Robertson in 1990), scored seven of the team's 11 points out of the second half gate, and hit that shot you're going to see for the rest of the season, if not the next few years. Ellis continued his encouraging chemistry with JJ Redick (14 pts, 6-11 fg), and dropped a solid collection of highlight-worthy passes, including a strike to a cutting Larry Sanders early in the fourth.
Ersan Ilyasova. It's weird to say the Bucks' unsung hero finished with 20 points on 8-13 shooting (along 10 rebounds), but Ilyasova was just that for most of the game. Consistent as ever, Ilyasova's rainbow jumper was working early and often (5-9 outside the restricted area), and he registered a trifecta of patented Ersan bailouts (3-4 in the circle). Ilyasova was also a crucial part of the game's final play, keeping the ball in Milwaukee's possession with those tipping skills we've become all-too familiar with over the past few seasons.
Larry Sanders. To add to the crazy, it took close to 40 minutes for Sanders (10 pts, 5-11 fg, 9 rbs, 2 blks) to register his first block of the game (extending his streak to 38 straight). Sanders' second, however, was far more significant. With the game tied at 105, Sanders swatted away a breakaway Harden lay-in that turned the game back in Milwaukee's favor. He subsequently tipped in an Ellis miss to give the Bucks a 107-105 lead with 45 seconds to play. Overall, Sanders was fairly quiet until the fourth quarter (6 pts, 4 rbs), but big plays in big moments tend to mask any previous indiscretions.
24. The Rockets are a team that lives and dies on speed, ranking second in the NBA in fast break points per game (18.3), while turning it over an NBA-worst 16.4 times a night. Wednesday was no different, as Houston gradually ceded 24 points off 19 turnovers after forcing nine from the Bucks in the game's first 18 minutes.
70. Thrilling ending aside, giving up 70 points in the paint (including 28 in the first quarter alone) is cray. Harden (6-10), Jeremy Lin (4-9), Chandler Parsons (6-8), and Carlos Delfino (4-6) did most of the damage inside off a litany of pick and rolls and fast-break opportunities. Omer Asik did tally 16 points, but Milwaukee's inability to keep the Houston guards out of the paint was the main reason for this appalling statistic.
22. Omer Asik is a solid basketball player. But he shouldn't be getting 22 rebounds in one night. Dirk Nowitzki shouldn't top 20 either, but he did Tuesday against the Bucks. Long story short, rebounding is going to be an issue for the rest of the season, in the playoffs, and heading into the offseason. Get used to it.
Final play execution. Yes, it was an incredible, death-defying shot from Ellis to win the game in an arena that has rarely been kind to the Bucks. But to focus on the ecstasy of victory buries the fact that, for all the press he's generated recently about playing time, Brandon Jennings was given a chance to close, and couldn't do anything but pick up his dribble against Jeremy Lin. Jennings isn't as naturally able to physically "will" a look at the hoop the way Ellis is, and it was very, very evident in the game's biggest moment.
The starters since the deadline. Milwaukee's lineup of Jennings/Ellis/Luc Richard Mbah a Moute/Ersan Ilyasova/Larry Sanders has posted a robust -20.3 plus/minus over the last three games. They're shooting a combined 42.9%, including 30.8% on threes, and 63.6% form the line. They've also averaged a solid 20.3 turnovers per game. Obviously, small sample sizes, but that's not a good way to start the second half surge to the postseason.
Slow starts. For the second night in a row, the Bucks had to dig themselves out of an early double-digit hole. I can't tell if it's a good thing to naturally expect a comeback when Milwaukee trails by as much as 17 points in the first quarter.
That last play. Let's look at it again, just for fun:
Ellis and Redick. It's hard for me to label this duo as the "future" after just three games (as some media/fans are wont to do in the absence of consistency from other "star" players). However, it's very evident that Redick and Ellis have skills that compliment and feed off each other. Redick's shooting prowess (not dissimilar to the Mike Dunleavy Effect) and quick release give Ellis a lot more space to work his penetration game. The top two lineups featuring these two (without Jennings) have posted plus/minus totals of +37.4, and +27.2. Along the same vein...
Kudos to coach. The rabble over Jennings' comments and his potentially decreased playing time are not likely to subside if the above success continues. Politically, it's risky for coach Jim Boylan to bench Jennings during meaningful points in the game, but he's done that over the past few games. Boylan deserves some commendation for going with what is working over what makes his star happy. How Jennings' playing time (especially in big situations) fleshes out over the remainder of this season, depending on the team's success with and without him, could have a huge impact on the Bucks' offseason priorities.