Monta Ellis hit a couple clutch shots in the fourth quarter to help the Bucks avoid an embarrassing loss--same old, same old. But a tightly contested fourth quarter is really the only resemblance this game bore to the Bucks' recent win over the Orlando Magic. Unlike that game, the Bucks dominated their opponent for two solid quarters, building a massive lead in the first half behind fast, smooth offense and smothering defense. After Milwaukee finished off a 31-8 second quarter, capped off by a pull-up three in transition from Brandon Jennings, they were up by 27 and looked primed to finally earn an easy victory and get some rest.
No such luck, however. The Bucks' ludicrously good first-half efficiency differential (135 ORtg/72 DRtg) was turned on its head after the break, as Milwaukee watched Portland drain threes by the bunches. In fact, as good as Milwaukee's first-half offense was, Portland scored even more efficiently in the second with an obscene 142.1 ORtg. The Bucks were saved from disaster by two more unlikely threes from Monta Ellis, who appears determined to never miss a shot from deep in the final period again. But frankly, no such heroics from any player should have been necessary; the Bucks did themselves a disservice by running their starters into the ground in yet another close contest one night ahead of a crucial showdown with the Hawks.
Ellis didn't shoot particularly well, missing 10 of his 18 shots and half of his 6 free throws, but he filled the stat sheet with excellent all-around production: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 24 points on 9-20 shooting and also had 7 assists, but he committed 6 turnovers, two of which came in the final 1:13 with the Bucks leading by just 7 points. Samuel Dalembert and J.J. Redick added 16 and 14 points, respectively, while Larry Sanders had 13 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
For the Blazers, Wesley Matthews made a strong showing in his college arena, sinking seven shots from behind the arc en route to a game-high 28 points. LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 15 rebounds. Damian Lillard dished 11 assists but scored just 8 points on 2-10 shooting. Portland couldn't make up for a truly atrocious first half in which they committed turnovers on nearly a quarter of their possessions and shot under 30%.
The Bucks have a tremendously important game in Atlanta tomorrow. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30PM CST.