Ersan Ilyasova had it, but it just didn't fall.
Milwaukee dropped their ninth straight game on the road Tuesday night, falling 85-84 in a tight one to the Pelicans on St. Patrick's Day. New Orleans improved their record against the Bucks to 16-2 in their last 18 games, which includes thirteen straight wins at home against Milwaukee. The Bucks overcame a 15-0 first quarter deficit to battle back into the game by halftime, but Ilyasova couldn't get a wide-open jumper to fall that would've ended their road skid.
The Pelicans built that strong 15-point lead after Milwaukee missed their first eight shots from the field and committed three turnovers before finally making their first basket of the game via an Ilyasova three at the 6:19 mark. During that cold start, Tyreke Evans scored six quick points for the Pelicans while Anthony Davis only attempted one shot from the field. Ilyasova soon nailed another triple, followed by a jumper at the same spot from Tyler Ennis to cap a 10-3 run for the Bucks that helped them trim New Orleans' lead, 24-15.
Things flipped around to start the second as the Pelicans' bench struggled to an 0/7 start to the quarter. That helped the Bucks go on an 8-0 run and cut a once 15-point deficit to just three midway through the session. Those shooting woes continued for the Pelicans, as they shot a horrid 14 percent in the quarter along with being outscored 23-10. The Bucks responded and overcame a rough stretch to lead 44-42 at the half. Since falling down 15-0, the Bucks dropped in 44 points compared to just 27 for the Pelicans. Giannis Antetokounmpo was central to the Bucks' comeback, bringing energy on both ends and going right at Davis on a number of occasions en route to an 11-point first half.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, the Pelicans' starters got them back on track to start the third. New Orleans began the period with a 14-3 run, and Davis scored eight points in the quarter to help the Pelicans close out with another 7-0 run, outscoring Milwaukee 28-18 in third. The Pelicans led by seven, 70-62 going into the fourth.
Even though the Pelicans at one point missed six straight attempts in the fourth (they finished shooting 20 percent in the fourth), they were able to survive late. After an 8-2 run that forced Monty Williams to burn a timeout, Gordon nailed a three to make it 83-80 and Davis soon answered two Jerryd Bayless free throws with a fadeaway to give the Pelicans another three-point lead. Bayless charged back down the court and caught Davis for his fourth foul of the game, and connected on two at the line to cut the lead to just one with 34.5 remaining. Gordon had a chance to seal it for the Pelicans, but came up short at the rim, giving Milwaukee the ball with 9.7 to go.
Bayless was then unable to hand the ball off to Giannis after being trapped out the inbound, but the officials reviewed and ruled that the Bucks called timeout prior to the ball being knocked out. Right after, Zaza Pachulia held off Davis with a beautiful screen that left Ilyasova wide-open near the 3-point line, but the shot rimed out as time expired.
Davis scored a game-high 20 points (6-for-18 shooting) for the Pelicans while also grabbing 12 boards and blocking three shots. Center Omer Asik (16 points, 11 boards) and guard Tyreke Evans (12 points, 10 boards) both registered double-doubles for New Orleans as well. Still, the Pelicans shot just 35 percent for the game as a team, offering Milwaukee a golden opportunity to end their road skid.
For the Bucks, five players scored in double-figures: Giannis (15 points, on 6-for-9 shooting), Ilyasova (15 on 6-for-15 shooting), Pachulia (11, on 3-for-9 shooting), Bayless (14, on 4-for-11 shooting) and Henson (14, on 7-for-10 shooting). Pachulia also grabbed 11 rebounds while Giannis (nine), Bayless (eight) and Henson (seven) came close to double-doubles also. Unfortunately, the Bucks' starting backcourt offset much of that with an ugly shooting night. Michael Carter-Williams (2-12 shooting, 6 pts, 4 ast, 0 turnovers) and Khris Middleton (2-14 shooting, 4 pts, 4 turnovers) combined to shoot just 4-26 from the field, single-handedly dragging the Bucks' overall shooting percentage down to 37.2 percent. MCW finished the game on the sidelines as the Bucks went with Bayless, Middleton, Giannis, Ersan and Pachulia down the stretch.
-- Giannis was easily the Bucks' best player for the second game in a row, stuffing the stat sheet with efficient scoring, good work on the defensive boards (8 def rebounds, 9 total), three blocks, and some effective playmaking (team-high 5 assists vs. just 1 turnover). While he only had three shots in the second half (hitting two), he made an impact in the third by repeatedly setting up Henson for buckets inside, and overall he showed no fear going head to head with Davis on both ends.
-- The bench for Milwaukee (which only consisted of Bayless, Ennis and Henson) combined to score 33 points for the Bucks tonight as they outscored the Pelicans 33-10 in that category. In their previous two games, they combined to get just 24 points from the unit that was without Jared Dudley and O.J. Mayo tonight.
-- Speaking of the bench, Henson bounced back from some lackluster recent play by providing a good spark, especially in the second half. He scored eight in the third and 14 in the game -- his first double-digit outing March 3 -- while adding seven rebounds and four blocked shots. His seven field goals were also the most he's connected on since Feb. 25 (nine). On the trip, Henson only attempted one shot in the last two games combined in roughly 33 minutes.
-- It wasn't a good night shooting for Khris Middleton, who finished the game with just four points on 2-of-14 shooting. Middleton was averaging 18 per contest in the last seven games coming in, but shot just 12-for-36 in Indy and Memphis (33 percent). He'll likely get things back on track when Milwaukee plays at home tomorrow night against San Antonio, where he's shooting nearly 52 percent from the field this season compared to 42 on the road.