Down to their last bullet, the Bucks got the scoring and defensive effort they needed from their second gang of players in Game 4 to stay alive in their series against the Chicago Bulls.
Milwaukee's bench unit scored 47 points and aided them in piling up 39 points off a season-high 28 Chicago turnovers. Those efforts were a catalyst for Jason Kidd's club as they snapped a nine-game postseason skid that dated back to 2010. In the locker room after the game, buzzer-beating hero Jerryd Bayless said ball pressure critical.
"Our group that comes in, we just try to pressure them more." Bayless explained. "And Juice (O.J Mayo), you can see him adding pressure on Dunleavy or Snell, Duds (Jared Dudley) was doing an amazing job, and everybody was just trying to pressure them."
Two of their 47 came off a beautiful Aaron Rodgers-esque inbound pass from Dudley to Bayless with 1.3 seconds remaining. Although Bayless was erratic for the majority of Saturday's game, going just 3-of-10 from the field, Dudley placed his faith in him with the season on the line. Bayless after the game also said that Dudley planned to signal him if the ball was coming his way, and it did after Derrick Rose was caught sleeping from behind.
"It was honestly only trying to beat them backdoor with 1.3 left on the clock." Bayless said. "I was trying to act like I was going towards the 3-point line, but we were hoping he was going to bite, and he bit on it. I was luckily able to finish it."
Fourteen of their 19 points in the fourth came from the bench, with eight coming from Mayo. Jason Kidd used a lineup that included Bayless, Mayo, Khris Middleton, Dudley and Henson for the majority of the fourth. The Bucks have struggled to close out games not only in just this series, but all season.
"That group out there was going, and we were going to ride them as long as they could stand." Kidd said. "I thought Juice (Mayo) and Bayless were great."
Milwaukee's bench averaged 42.3 points per game before the All-Star break, second in the league behind Phoenix. However, they slumped after the break and scored just 28 per game, in part due to injuries such as a hamstring for Mayo and knee and back problems for Dudley. Bayless' production slipped, too, as he shot just 30 percent in the month of April coming in, and dipped his shooting percentage from 45 to 38 post-break. In the playoffs thus far, the Bucks have averaged 31 bench points per contest, which is ninth among playoff teams. That's not horrible, but it certainly isn't up to the standard they set in November and December.
"This is who we are." Kidd said. "This was who we were at the beginning of the year. Our bench was a big part of our success and you saw that in Game 3, and you saw that tonight."
Mayo credited the Bucks' training staff for their improved health.
"We had a few injuries toward the end of the season that weren't all the way right." Mayo said. "We have a great training staff that got us 100 percent for the last five games of the season and on to the playoffs."
Mayo led the team in scoring with 18 points (going 6-for-11 from the field), the most he's scored in the postseason since a 20-point effort with Memphis in 2012. Dudley added 13 including three triples, while Henson blocked four shots and was very good on both ends of the floor.
It's unlikely that a team like Chicago will turn the ball over 28 times again, but it's remarkable that despite that, Game 4 was still only decided by two points. After scoring 23 points at halftime (including 14 in the second) Jimmy Butler finished with 33, two points shy of his career-high.
Down 3-1 heading to Chicago -- which is a completely different atmosphere than Milwaukee -- the Bucks will have their backs to the wall again Monday night, but unlike their effort-lacked teams in previous years, they're not giving up.
"We're still believing," Bayless stated, "and we're not giving up on this series."