There’s nothing that’s going to stop the Milwaukee Bucks from reaching the postseason for the first time in four years, and despite all the criticism both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis take for being a bit too selfish for most people’s taste, it’s probably a good thing that we’ll get to see a little bit more from one of the better backcourt duos in the NBA.
The Bucks have solidified their playoff berth a long time ago; from the moment the Philadelphia 76ers’ ship sunk. But they don’t want to be facing the Miami Heat in what is presumably a predicted four game sweep, so they’re going to try and catch up with the Celtics, Hawks and Bulls, carrying on with a 102-95 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, as Jennings leads the way with 24 points and 7 assists (9-20 from the field) while Monta Ellis isn’t too far behind, scoring 21 points, adding 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals.
We just wanted to come out with a lot of energy. We didn’t want to play with this team and try to climb back like we had to do. They made a run, which this is the NBA. But we were able to close the game out.
The Bucks kept the Blazers at only 8 points in the second quarter while scoring 31 themselves. They led by as many as 27 in the first half, but a strong perofrmance from Wesley Matthews (28 points) and LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points) gave them some hope in the second half before Jennings kicked it into extra gear and put the game beyond doubt for the Bucks, improving to 34-32, winning their second consecutive game following a 13 points loss to the Miami Heat.
The Bucks enjoyed another fine performance from J.J. Redick coming off the bench, averaging 13.3 points since arriving via trade from the Orlando Magic, scoring 14 in the win over the Blazers while going 2-3 from beyond the arc after struggling from the outside compared to his career numbers. It was also the Bucks’ fourth consecutive win against Portland, something that hasn’t happened in nearly 30 years, since the days Don Nelson was the captain of the ship.
What was even more encouraging for Milwaukee was doing it without their two starting forwards, Luc Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova, who aren’t out with something serious, but probably need a bit more time before they return to action. With the Bucks facing a very rough schedule to end the month (at Atlanta, at Indiana, Atlanta again, at Philly, Lakers & Thunder), they’ll probably be needing them very soon.
For the Blazers, it probably means it’s not going to be about a postseason finish – Damian Lillard was overwhelmed by the competition, scoring only 8 points on 2-10 from the field while turning the ball over 6 times, playing 45 minutes. The Blazers don’t have a backup plan – it’s either their entire starting lineup playing well, or it’s almost a definite loss. This time, Nicolas Batum was just OK, not enough to cover for the future rookie of the year, who got a bit more than he bargained for this season.