Playing four games in five nights across a geographical span of four times zones is the NBA equivalent of dodgeball. You might escape with a cute maneuver here or there, but unless you’re really good (see the incoming Miami Heat, for example), someone else is going to pop you at an inopportune moment.
For the second night in a row, the Bucks got smacked. The Washington Wizards flattened an already flat team by scoring 60 points in the first half, then they helped Milwaukee to their feet for the third quarter only to deliver a glancing blow in the fourth.
But that third quarter was the interesting aberration for the evening, no?
After the game, coach Jim Boylan said that the Bucks “got some real good leadership in the locker room at halftime… there were a couple good voices in there.” Later, J.J. Redick said that the most vocal player was Monta Ellis.
It showed in his play, too. Ellis had 28 points on 19 shots to pair with eight assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals. His speed and energy in chasing plays went largely unmatched by his teammates.
The third quarter was the sole highlight for the Bucks. Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders helped the spur the Bucks’ 29-6 outburst spread over six minutes of the period. Ilyasova and Sanders scored 12 and 7 points in the quarter, respectively, and the pair combined the control the boards.
It was the only time in the game Milwaukee did the requisite work of rebounding — the Wizards bullied them in that area soundly in the other three quarters. Trevor Booker, in particular, boosted the Wizards with 12 rebounds in just over 22 minutes.
The Bucks got beat in other areas, too. Washington attempted a dozen free throws in the first half, while the Bucks got none. Zero. Zip. Milwaukee’s frustration with the officials arose again in the fourth quarter. Sanders chirped at an official when Nene (game-high 13 rebounds) went over his back for a tip-in. When another call went against him late in the game, Sanders flashed his mock approval. (GIF credit to @wiz_spurtin)
And that may be the cheeriest way to fetch an automatic ejection. Referee Bennett Salvatore tossed Sanders moments later.
Sanders (and Boylan, see below) tooke the ejection in stride. He combined a smile and a grimace at the same time when asked about the gesturing that brought on his ejection. “I really wanted to win and gain some momentum going into the playoffs. I felt like we played hard, but we didn’t play our best.”
Mike Dunleavy had a terrible game (0/6 FG, 4 rebs, 2 fouls, 1 TO). The troubling play of a much more concerting nature belonged to Brandon Jennings (2/8 FG, 2 TO). In the first half, Jennings’ speed and quickness vanished. His passivity was palpable, both on offense and defense.
“I haven’t been shooting as much, but when I was shooting it was a problem”, Jennings said after the game. “So now that I’m not shooting, it’s like, ‘Oh he doesn’t want to play basketball’, but I do, it’s just that I’m looking for my teammates more.”
Jennings did barely reach the double-digit assist mark for the fifth time in seven games.
John Wall also had 10 assists but added in 23 points (on 10/19 FG) and four steals for a dominant win in the point guard battle for the evening.