Incredible game winners often overshadow incredible games.
The Bucks and Rockets put on a breathtaking spectacle of athleticism capped by Monta Ellis’ improbable game-winning shot of the “no, no, no… yes!” variety. Other than the fact that the ball went in, there was so little to like about the play before the final buzzer. Jennings dribbled the clock too far down, got smothered by Lin and put Ellis is a terrible spot 27-feet from the hoop.
(What transpired after the buzzer is another matter entirely: the around-the-rim english, the tumbled cameraman, the Bucks sprinting out of the arena — perfect, perfect, perfect.)
But this game featured so many other noteworthy happenings and trends:
Ersan’s big finish
Ilyasova played a great final three minutes to help keep the Bucks alive long enough for Monta to win it. He made a dashing cut to the hoop for a three-point play when the Bucks were down six point and fading quickly. He nabbed two key rebounds late, much as he did in Dallas the night before. He blocked an Asik shot that looked to be an easy bucket. And, even if by luck, he tripped up Chandler Parsons just enough to keep the ball alive to set up the game’s final possession.
Larry Sanders Up and Back
Larry Sanders had a jaw-dropping sequence in the final moments, too. Mike Dunleavy drove with his left hand, but James Harden picked his pocket from behind and sprinted the other way for a seemingly uncontested layup. Sanders not only sprinted back on defense (as he always does) to square himself for a leaping chasedown block, but he also had the composure to go after Harden — a natural left-hander — from the proper side. The added bonus was the go-ahead tip-in basket to give the Bucks a brief lead in the final minute.
Monta = Defense
He won’t win the Defensive Player of the Year award anytime soon, but Ellis showed the defensive disruptive force that he can be. For the second straight game, Ellis pilfered six steals. He gambles a ton with his hands, but those are reasonable risks when Sanders is lurking under the basket (and not in foul trouble) and when the pace is the frantically sloppy one in which the Bucks seem to excel most.
Speaking of The Gambler, thank you, Jon Hartzell (@jhartzell2), for this amazing photoshop.
Monta the Tablesetter
When the Bucks first announced the J.J. Redick trade, I was first excited by the prospect of a Jennings/Redick/Dunleavy/Ilyasova/Sanders lineup.
I was close, but I picked the wrong one.
It’s the Ellis/Redick/Dunleavy/Ilyasova/Sanders lineup that may soon instill fear into the hearts of NBA opponents, especially on offense. Give Ellis the ball and let him run the pick and roll with Sanders. With three ridiculous shooters around the play, defenses can’t commit a third defender to help slow the pick and roll. If they do, the Bucks are set for a kickout, and even then, if defenses get a good runout on the three-point shot, Redick, Dunleavy, and Ilyasova are all talented at moving the ball and/or using a fake to get the next best available shot.
With the usual caveat about small sample size, note that in the three games it has been together, this lineup has scored 40 points over a span of 15 minutes. In addition, it has a +/- rating of +12. Things won’t always go that well for the quintet, but it’s definitely a look that bears watching.
Brandon Jennings will do fine as an interchangeable part in this lineup, too, but Ellis has proved himself as the better ballhandler in the pick-and-roll, so Jennings needs to slide in as an off the ball player here. Honestly, I’ve often thought of that role as one of his strengths.
For the game, Ellis had 13 assists and 11 free throw attempts. The presence of Redick allows Milwaukee to use Monta more at the point with viable shooters around him (Luc and Marquis don’t count). Through three games, Ellis has thrived.
Thank you, Houston, for being the fastest team in the league. Every basketball game should flow like this one.
For the game, the Bucks bench made 17 of 29 field goal attempts. The bulk of that can be attributed to Dunleavy and Redick, but Henson was good in his own right, making five of his six attempts. Those shots included two downward trajectory lefty hook shots as well as a savvy hesitation move on a layup attempt that sent a Houston defender flying by.
When Henson starts using his length on defense as well as he uses it on offense, he’ll be a force.
Ellis finished with 27 pts/13 ast/6 stl. Here’s the complete list of Bucks players to do that since 1985: bkref.com/tiny/0QUyI
— Bucks PR (@BucksPR) February 28, 2013
— Nick Monroe (@nmonroe) February 28, 2013
Ellis-Redick best backcourt combo ever? Yes or no? I’m leaning towards absolutely.
— Jon Hartzell (@jhartzell2) February 28, 2013