In the end, the Bucks squeezed just enough out of the pieces that they did have. Their reward? A weekend road sweep.
Playing without Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, and J.J. Redick, the Bucks dug deep into their rotation to eke out a dramatic 115-113 win over the Sacramento Kings. With less than five seconds left, Jimmer Fredette intentionally missed a free throw and rebounded it. Monta Ellis got a hand on the ball though and deflected it. By the time Tyreke Evans regathered it, he only had time to misfire a long, slim hope. He missed.
The Bucks happily accepted valuable contributions from unexpected sources like Ekpe Udoh, Gustavo Ayon, Marquis Daniels, Samuel Dalembert, and John Henson. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis led the team, and even if their boxscore lines aren’t the fanciest, they did hand out a combined 17 assists while gashing Sacramento’s substandard defense for 20 free throw attempts.
The game took a weird turn in the third quarter. Mike Dunleavy tried to box out DeMarcus Cousins on a missed shot by the Kings. He got to his position later rather than sooner, and lower rather than higher. Cousins took offense, presumably thinking that Dunleavy had undercut him. Four players fell to the floor following the play. In the subsequent one-sided jawing, the pair received a double-technical.
When the game resumed to action, Dunleavy set a backscreen on Cousins, who freed himself by turning and elbowing Dunleavy in the back of the head. Cousins was ejected for a Flagrant-2 foul.
Up until that point, Cousins had scored effortlessly on his way to making 10-of-12 field goals. But after the technical, the rest of the Kings and the Kings crowd got an emotional bump. Shortly after the foul, they went on a 13-3 run.
Fortunately for the Bucks, the play spurred Mike Dunleavy too. The Bucks likely would not have won without the four three-pointers he made after the ejection.
A substitution of Jimmer Fredette and Cole Aldrich spurred a frantic late game 19-5 run by the Kings in the game’s final four minutes. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings closed out the win by making a pair of free throws each following deliberate Kings fouls.
Gustavo Ayon scored 12 first-half points while maneuvering nimbly along the baseline and in the paint. He also grabbed seven rebounds and a pair of steals. He did pick up a pair of quick second-half fouls though (and four total), so Drew Gooden took his spot in the rotation for the rest of the game. Gooden wasn’t nearly as effective.
Ekpe Udoh and Samuel Dalembert did well to replace Larry Sanders’ defense of the rim. Udoh, in particular, played his best game of the season. He blocked four shots, scored 10 points, and hounded Isaiah Thomas as the second-line of Bucks’ defense when the first line was doing little to slow the unbelievably quick guard.