Hornets 92, Bucks 89
Like the rest of his Milwaukee Bucks teammates, Brandon Jennings was searching for answers following what he called an ''embarrassing'' loss to the short-handed and struggling New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.
Marco Belinelli made a career-high six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 22 points to lead the Hornets to a 92-89 victory over Milwaukee. The Bucks have lost three straight and six of eight to fall further out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, with the surging New York Knicks now in the No. 8 spot.
''It starts with myself,'' Jennings said. ''I need to come out with a lot more energy, and I need to play harder. I can't say I've been playing hard the last couple games because I really haven't. I need to look in the mirror and ask myself, `Is this something that I'm up for?'''
Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks (12-17) with a season-high 23 points, two off his career high.
Chris Kaman added 18 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which had lost eight in a row and 17 of 18 before beating Utah 86-80 on Monday.
Gusvtavo Ayon had 12 points and a career-high 12 rebounds as the Hornets (6-23) won their second straight game for the first time since starting the season 2-0.
''We're a fighting team,'' coach Monty Williams said. ''We have a little bit of grit about us. I'm pretty sure guys have read the articles about how bad we've been this year from a record standpoint. It's too bad you don't have a stat for heart and intensity because we'd be at the top of the league.''
The Hornets led the entire second half and by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, but the Bucks kept it close in the fourth.
Belinelli's 3-pointer put the Hornets up 87-81 with 2:59 left, and Jennings responded with a 3 with 2:40 remaining. Ayon's reverse layup made it 89-84 with 1:28 left. Mike Dunleavy hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 89-87 before Belinelli sealed the win with two free throws with 15.5 seconds remaining.
''It's huge,'' Williams said of Belinelli, who he said is battling a wrist injury. ''He always plays hard. Tonight he was making shots, he was defending, he was talking. We've always felt like he was capable of doing that. Maybe not that many points, but he's playing more minutes.''
The Hornets led 50-45 at halftime despite 15 points from Ilyasova, two off his season high.
New Orleans heated up in the third quarter, leading by as many as 13 behind three Belinelli 3-pointers that elicited boos from the small home crowd. But the Bucks drew within 72-71 with a 12-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters.
''It's nothing against New Orleans. They're a good team, but look at their record,'' Ilyasova said. ''As soon as they started playing in the beginning, they get confidence in themselves, and every shot they got, they just knocked it down. It's hard to compete against those teams.''
Jennings, the Bucks' leading scorer (18.4 points per game), had 18 points but struggled from the field (7 of 21). He called the loss ''embarrassing.''
''Of course it is,'' he said. ''They're last in the Western Conference, so of course it's embarrassing to lose to a team that's 5-20 (now 6-23), and lose on your home court like that.''
He added: ''I really don't know what it is. It don't seem like we have the same passion as we had before. We have to find a way to get that back. It is going to take a team effort. There is only one guy who has been playing really well for us so far, and that's Ersan Ilyasova.''
Bucks coach Scott Skiles said his team was ''outplayed and outworked.''
''We were at least able to give ourselves a chance, but we need to address what goes on before the last 3 minutes of the game,'' he said.
The Hornets only dressed 10 players and remained without their three leading scorers, leading rebounder and leading assist man.
Emeka Okafor missed his second straight game with a sore left knee, and Jarrett Jack missed his third straight with a bruised left knee. Carl Landry (second degree MCL sprain) and Jason Smith (concussion) have both missed the last five games.
Eric Gordon has missed 22 straight games with a bruised right knee. Gordon had arthroscopic surgery to clean up the knee Tuesday and will miss approximately six weeks, the team said.
''Offensively, we are still a work in progress,'' Williams said. ''I'm just proud of the way the guys hang in there. We've got two guys form the D-League and one guy who just got here last night and a few guys who still don't know what we do every day. They just keep fighting.''
It was the first road victory for the Hornets since Jan. 9, and the Bucks have lost five straight at home.
''The most fun thing tonight is that we got another win,'' Kaman said. ''That's two in a row for us, and everybody is happy, and it feels good to get off that losing column.''
Notes: Before the game, the Hornets signed Solomon Jones to a 10-day contract. The 6-foot-10 Jones, who played 10 minutes Wednesday, appeared in 10 regular-season games with the Clippers this season before being waived on Feb. 7. He is in his sixth NBA season. ... New Orleans has won five of its last six at the Bradley Center, and the Hornets have swept the Bucks in the season series five of the past six years. The teams do not play again in 2012.