It happens every time – Scott Skiles gets fired, and the team he leaves starts flourishing. Since Skiles left the Milwaukee Bucks and Jim Boylan took over, the Bucks have won five of their last seven, the latest coming with a big Brandon Jennings performance in a 110-104 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers.
It wasn’t only Jennings, who more and more looks like the guard of the future for the Bucks, while Monta Ellis’ season isn’t exactly going according to plan. Jennings scored 30 points and dished out 8 assists, but got a lot of help from a rare name; Ersan Ilyasova scored 27 points, adding 14 rebounds and 4 assists adding to some very happy times for the Bucks.
They’re 3-1 on their current road trip, beating the Blazers in the Rose Garden, following their first win in over 25 years against the Suns in Phoenix. The Blazers came into the game with some sort of chip on their shoulder or more like weights on their feet, struggling to close out games in recent times, losing each of their last five by six points or less.
Damian Lillard led the way for the Blazers with 26 points and 10 assists; LaMarcus Aldridge with 20 points and 14 rebounds and J.J. Hickson with 15 points and 12 rebounds also had double doubles, but a bad shooting night – 42% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc was too much for them to overcome.
The Blazers did make it close in the end. With 3:45 left in the game and a 16 point lead for the Bucks, Portland went on a 12-0 run, but the final minute was mostly about Jennings and Ellis getting to the line, hitting 6-8 from there, while Lillard was probably too selfish with his decision making, missing two three pointers near the end of the game.
The game had a total of 33 turnovers, 19 of them by the Blazers, allowing the Bucks to score 27 points off of them. This was Jennings’ third game in the last seven with at least 29 points and he’s averaging 21.5 points per game in the month of January. Monta Ellis isn’t as hot, averaging only 16.2 points in January, scoring above 17 points only once in the last 7 games, usually shooting pretty bad from the field as well.
This is where the Bucks should go – Brandon Jennings is a very similar player to Ellis, just a little less selfish and younger. Sharing the ball between them isn’t going to work because they’re both shoot first guards, so giving Jennings the edge in the race when it comes to ball-handling and decision making is probably the best thing for the Bucks in their playoff race, currently 7th in the Eastern Conference, 4.5 games ahead of Philadelphia who are out of the playoff picture for now.