The Milwaukee Bucks bounced back from a tough loss in Los Angeles on Wednesday to finish their west coast road trip with back-to-back wins over two of California’s other teams.
On Saturday night, the Bucks went into Oakland and picked up an impressive win over the playoff bound Golden State Warriors. They followed that up with a win on Sunday over the Sacramento Kings to push their record back three games over. 500.
The pair of victories showed some resilience from the Bucks after they dropped their trip opener, a 117-101 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had six points, two rebounds and a pair of steals in the loss, but had a rare off night defensively against LA’s Blake Griffin, who tallied a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
After being overrun by Griffin and the Clippers, the Bucks headed north for a battle with another tough West team. But this one was more evenly matched.
Milwaukee and Golden State went shot-for-shot in the first half and the Warriors took just a one-point lead into the locker room at the intermission. However, the Bucks pulled away in the second half as Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy combined for 9-for-17 from three-point range.
« We were doing it on both ends, » Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. « Guys were really active defensively, chasing down loose balls, diving on the floor, those hustle plays that really make a difference to your team. And then offensively I thought our execution was good. »
Luc contributed seven points with six rebounds and two assists while grabbing three steals in the 103-93 Bucks win.
— Bucks Blogger (@3PointBucks) 10 Mars 2013
« I think we played well defensively and that’s what really helped us, » Luc said. « And guys made shots. Brandon and Monta shot the ball well. »
The Bucks finished off their trip with a trek from the Bay Area to the California capital of Sacramento for the second night of a back-to-back against the Kings. Though Milwaukee was weary, they survived a late offensive onslaught from Sacramento to escape with a 115-113 victory in a wire-to-wire thriller.
Playing without Ersan Ilyasova, JJ Redick or shot-blocking machine Larry Sanders, the Bucks still managed to build up a 15-point lead with four minutes left to play. The Bucks bench combined for 43 points and 19 rebounds on the night.
« It shows a lot about the strength of the team, the depth, » Luc said after the Bucks beat Sacramento short-handed. « A lot of guys stepped up tonight from the bench. »
A foot injury forced Luc to sit out part of the first half, but he was able to return after the intermission and finished with seven points and two rebounds.
The right foot doesn't look like its an issue for Luc Mbah a Moute in the third quarter. If his last 3-pointer is any indication.
— Dime Alert (@DimeAlert) 11 Mars 2013
Luc came back from a foot injury to help the Bucks hold off the Kings in the second half (Getty Images).
Jimmer Fredette led the Kings on a comeback that made things interesting as Sacramento cut Milwaukee’s lead to just one multiple times in the final 30 seconds on a pair of Tyreke Evans lay-up. But Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis each answered with a pair of free throws to preserve the lead. Afterward, Ellis praised the Bucks’ reserve crew for spotting the starters a lead that alowed them to survive the Kings’ run.
« Our bench did a great job for us, » Ellis said after Sunday’s win. « Every team is going to make runs and they made one at the end. But we held them off. It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it. »
Sunday’s victory allowed the Bucks to finish a road trip that started on a bad note 2-1. It was also Milwaukee’s sixth win in their last seven games as they push on toward a highly likely spot in the playoffs.
At 32-29 on the season, the Bucks are 8.5 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 21 games left to play. Milwaukee currently sits as the eight seed in the East, but they’re just 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks, who are tied for sixth, and two games behind the currently fifth seeded Chicago Bulls.
« We’re just going to keep playing, » Boylan said of the Bucks’ positioning in the playoff picture. « You look at the standings and there’s plenty of games left to be played. There’s opportunity for us to move up and we’re going to try to seize every moment that we can.”
Milwaukee’s next opportunity to do so comes at home on Tuesday night when they host the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks are one of three sub .500 teams Milwaukee plays over its next four games. They also play the Miami Heat in that span and Boylan expects his team to go out and compete with each foe like their spot in the postseason is on the line.
« Our main goal is to just get there [to the playoffs] and be playing as well as we can at the end of the season, » the Bucks coach said. « Wherever we are, we’re going to show up and play. Whoever that team is, we’re going to get out there and compete against them. »
Tip-off of Tuesday’s game against Dallas is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST and you can catch all the action on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
- Jennings, Ellis lead Bucks past Warriors, 103-93 (The Associated Press, Mar. 10, 2013)
- Bucks pull away to beat Warriors, 103-93 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 10, 2013)
- Backcourt sizzles as Bucks down Golden State (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 10, 2013)
- This is getting real: Bucks 103 – Warriors 93 (Bucksketball, Mar. 10, 2013)
- Bucks final score: Jennings, Ellis help Bucks shoot down Warriors, 103-93 (Brew Hoop, Mar. 10, 2013)
- Ellis leads Bucks past Kings, 115-113 (NBA.com, Mar. 11, 2013)
- Surviving Sacramento: Bucks 115 – Kings 113 (Bucksketball, Mar. 11, 2013)
- Bucks survive frantic late surge by Kings (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 10, 2013)
- Luc Mbah a Moute leaves game with foot injury, returns after halftime (Brew Hoop, Mar. 10, 2013)
- Bucks final score: Short-handed Bucks hang on to beat Kings 115-113 (Brew Hoop, Mar. 10, 2013)