So the Milwaukee Bucks still haven't won a game by double-digits since a February 25th victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. So what? Snapping an 11-game road losing streak and picking up a key tiebreaker in the Eastern Conference playoff standings made for a pretty good Friday night all the same.
Seven different Bucks players scored in double figures and the team used a big third quarter to turn a halftime deficit into a big lead, then held off a rally to earn a 110-101 win over the Boston Celtics. It was the Bucks' first victory away from Milwaukee since February 2nd in Toronto.
The losing streak wasn't the only unfortunate trend snapped Friday night. Milwaukee's bench unit, much maligned in recent weeks, snapped out of its funk in a big way, led by a brilliant game from O.J. Mayo. Mayo tallied 20 of his 24 points in the first half to buoy the Bucks during their slow start and made a few key defensive plays down the stretch to keep Milwaukee's lead out of reach. He also showed his skills as a distributor, dishing six assists including a perfect transition alley-oop to John Henson. Jared Dudley and Henson each contributed solid numbers off the pine as well: Dudley sank a pair of threes, scored ten points, and had four assists, while Henson made all five of his shots for ten points and grabbed eight rebounds.
While Mayo was the first-half star for Milwaukee, Ersan Ilyasova played a big role in swinging a two-point Celtics lead at halftime way in the other direction. Ilyasova scored 13 of his 17 points in the third, making up for an inaccurate night from behind the arc with a few leak-out transition buckets and midrange jumpers.
The Bucks had to be thankful to get such terrific production from their bench, because Milwaukee's young starters weren't exactly on their game. Khris Middleton shot 5-16 for 13 points, Michael Carter-Williams had almost as many turnovers (6) as points (8), and Giannis Antetokounmpo saw his minutes limited by foul trouble early in the second half.
It was a shame to see Giannis pick up those cheap fouls, because he looked poised for a strong game in the first few minutes. Again taking advantage of his size and speed mismatch, Giannis worked against Evan Turner in the post and made a lightning-quick spin to the baseline for a finger roll lay-in. Baskets like this show off his remarkable ability to get to the rim from just about any angle: Turner had no chance to contest the shot given the height difference, while Giannis' length made a righty finish from behind the basket look easy as pie. His final statline wasn't necessarily bad (11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists), but it could have been much better had he been afforded the chance to really get things rolling.
Isaiah Thomas led the way for Boston with 23 points on 7-12 shooting (2-5 3PT, 7-8 FT) while Avery Bradley and Jonas Jerebko each scored 17. The Celtics shot 44% for the game and fell apart defensively after the first quarter.
All told, it was as complete a game as Milwaukee has played of late, especially on the road. The Bucks moved the ball very well, recording assists on 31 of their 45 made shots. They hit 52% overall and 37% from three. Were it not for the continued turnover issues, Milwaukee could have turned this game into a rout. Instead they'll have to be content with a win that gives them a big leg up in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Milwaukee takes the court back at the BMO Harris Bradley Center tomorrow night against the Orlando Magic, who have lost 10 of their last 12 games. Tip-off in Milwaukee is at 7:30.