After four straight convincing losses and an early 13-point deficit to the Los Angeles Lakers, it looked like the Milwaukee Bucks were well on their way to a season-high losing streak.
But following a lackluster first half, the Bucks (35-36) fought back and sealed a much-needed 113-103 victory on Thursday night.
The Lakers, who have yet to win a back-to-back set of games this season, came out with less energy in the second half, and the Bucks took advantage of Los Angeles’ cold shooting (37.5 percent) and 10 turnovers after intermission. Milwaukee outscored the Lakers by eight in the third quarter and built a five-point lead going into the final frame. Following a quick 11-5 run by the visitors, Brandon Jennings hit a three-pointer to put the Bucks ahead 90-88 with eight minutes left — a lead they never relinquished.
Marquis Daniels served as the ‘Kobe Stopper’ for Milwaukee, which was an important feat considering Luc Mbah a Moute’s struggle to get reacclimated since returning from injury. Bryant still finished the night with 30 points, but turned the ball over six times and shot just 6-17 from the field. He managed to consistently bait the Bucks into committing fouls on his jump shot, resulting in 20 attempts at the line.
Surprisingly, Daniels — who was shooting 27.8 percent from the field since being reinserted into the starting lineup — also contributed on the offensive end. The veteran forward produced his second-highest scoring output this season with 16 points on an efficient 12 shots.
For the second consecutive night, Jennings watched a majority of the fourth quarter from the bench. Bucks head coach Jim Boylan subbed out Jennings with 8:07 left in the fourth quarter, and the starting point guard never re-entered the game.
After the game, Boylan made sure to point out that benching Jennings again wasn’t by design.
“Brandon played great tonight,” Boylan said in his postgame press conference, which was aired on FS Wisconsin. “When I took him out, I had every intention of putting Brandon back in the game. The game just started to roll in our favor, and I didn’t want to mess with the chemistry out on the court — not that I didn’t trust Brandon to come back and play well.”
It appears Jennings, who scored 20 points (7-14 fg) and dished out seven assists in 32 minutes, isn’t exactly taking the incidental benching in stride. He sent out this interesting tweet after the game:
Smh all I can do is laugh. Shout out to my teammates!!!
— BRANDON JENNINGS (@justryod3) March 29, 2013
At least he’s laughing instead of fuming, right?
Ilyasova’s Defensive Struggles Continue:
Ersan Ilyasova’s subpar post defense has been a staple of Milwaukee’s deteriorating defensive presence, and it reared its ugly head Thursday night. The Lakers went after Ilyasova relentlessly to begin the first and third quarters, feeding forward Pau Gasol early and often.
Bryant and Gasol ran a simple two-man game on several possessions — with Bryant throwing numerous entry passes to Gasol until he gained sufficient leverage over Ilyasova — which resulted in a few easy looks in the paint. The Lakers posted up against Ilyasova seven times and scored on three of them, according to data from Synergy Sports. Gasol would finish the night with 12 points on 6-12 shooting and nine rebounds.
A talented big man overpowering Ilyasova in the post is no aberration. Per Synergy, opposing players are now shooting 57.1 percent (52-91) on post-up opportunities with Ilyasova defending. While the starting backcourt’s lack of commitment to defense is sure to garner more attention, Ilyasova’s inability to protect the basket is another thing to keep an eye on going forward.
Career-High for Sanders:
With all of the widespread attention Larry Sanders is getting this season, an outside observer would likely assume his career-high in points is north of 20. But until facing Dwight Howard and the Lakers last night, it was only 19.
Sanders finally surpassed the 20-point threshold — thanks in part to a rare 10 free throw attempts, in which he made five — and scored a team-high 21 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. He also grabbed 13 rebounds, including six offensive boards, and blocked two shots.
Ilyasova and Ellis added 20 and 18 points, respectively, while six players off the Bucks’ bench combined for just 18 points. Ellis, who assumed point guard duties late in the game, also finished with nine assists and seven rebounds.
Oh, and Sanders wasn’t the only Buck to rattle the Lakers’ all-star center yesterday:
The Bucks will continue a four-game homestand on Saturday night, when they welcome in the Oklahoma City Thunder on “‘90s Night.”