An energetic Monta Ellis spearheaded a second-half rally over an underwhelming Mavericks team to help the Bucks win, 95-90. In addition to scoring 22 points, Ellis added six steals and nine assists which helped the Bucks immensely in their search for easy offense.
This Milwaukee win was never easy, though.
After three consecutive losses by three or fewer points, the Bucks needed a stroke of luck to fall their way and the Mavericks obliged: Dirk Nowitzki hit the one and only successful Dallas three-point attempt of the game in 17 attempts.
Nowitzki shined with 21 points and 20 rebounds. For the games final minutes, Jim Boylan switched around the defensive assignments and tasked Larry Sanders with the job of guarding Dirk.
After the Sanders divulged a bit of his strategy for guarding Nowitzki:
“I tried to distract him. You have to take what he gives you and try and crowd him… Try to get into his space a little bit and try to alter his shots a little bit and try to get in his face.”
The tactic worked, in a way.
Coming out of a timeout in a tie game with less than three minutes to play, the Mavericks kept possession of the ball for an entire minute. Sanders shut down Nowitzki, but with Sanders playing on the perimeter, the Bucks gave up three consecutive offensive rebounds.
The possession ended mercifully for the Bucks when Sanders poked the ball loose from Nowitzki and Ellis broke out on the fast break to draw two free throws. From there, Ersan Ilyasova grabbed another pair of Mavericks’ misses — with an assist from more of Sanders’ defense — and hit three of four free throws to complete the victory.
The Bucks utilized a lineup of Ellis/J.J. Redick/Mike Dunleavy/Ilyasova/Sanders during the game’s pivotal possessions. Brandon Jennings finished with eight points (3/11 FG) and six assists, but played only 2:47 of the final quarter and didn’t do much of anything defensively. After some pointed Dallas quotes earlier in the day, his audition for a prime free-agency suitor fizzled.
Boylan noted his use of Redick to turn the proverbial fourth-quarter switch:
“I just felt like that group was playing well together. I saw the game kind of slipping from us a little bit and I felt I needed to get those guys out there again. So I went back to J.J.[Redick] and obviously it worked out for us.”
J.J. Redick scored 14 points on eight shots — points that were high on efficiency and low on style. When chased off his outside shot, Redick drove the paint a number of times. Most of those forays ended with him either picking up his dribble prematurely or getting bailed out by friendly officiating. At this point in the Bucks’ season though, efficiency is plenty of style in its own right.
The Bucks started the game lethargically. Dallas pushed out to an 11-0 lead as Milwaukee mixed two offensive fouls with a pair of unattractive missed jump shots from Jennings and Luc Mbah a Moute. Sanders earned one of the offensive violations, and the resulting foul trouble hindered his aggressiveness on defense for the rest of the first half.
The Redick-Dunleavy combo helped stem Dallas’ momentum. Dunleavy was Redick’s equal in efficiency: 13 points on nine shots. The Efficiency Twins!
Elton Brand had 14 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench as the Mavericks pounded Milwaukee on the boards by a 56-39 margin. Dallas tied a season-high with 16 offensive rebounds.
Drew Gooden played his most significant game of the season, earning almost 17 minutes of playing time. He scored eight points and did a decent job hustling around on both ends. However, he only managed two rebounds, and his minutes coincided with some terrible perimeter defense. Unlike Sanders and Ekpe Udoh, Gooden simply cannot atone for the defensive sins of his guards.
Samuel Dalembert was just a sinner in his own right — the Bucks suspended him for the game for a violation of team rules. According to Charles F. Gardner, Dalembert showed up late to shootaround.
Milwaukee now leads Philadelphia by five full games in the passive jockeying for the eighth seed. Former Buck Tobias Harris helped down the 76ers with 16 points (7/9 FG) and seven rebounds.
Tweets of the night:
— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) February 27, 2013
Tonight was 4th time this yr Monta Ellis had 6 steals. Nobody has had more games with 6+ stl in a season since Chris Paul had 9 in ’08-09.
— NBA Guru (@NBAGuru) February 27, 2013
Monta is better than Jennings at passing out of a pick and roll, almost no question about it at this point.
— Jeremy Schmidt (@Bucksketball) February 27, 2013