Bucks coach Jim Boylan was hardly in the mood to celebrate even though his team came back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Monta Ellis scored a season-high 39 points, including 25 in the fourth quarter, and Milwaukee rallied for a 115-109 over the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
Losers of three consecutive games coming into the matchup with the Magic, who own the second-worst record in the NBA, the Bucks trailed most of the way before Ellis took over in the fourth. He connected on all five of his 3-point attempts in the period, and his 25 points were the most by an NBA player in one quarter this season.
”Monta was pretty amazing there in the fourth quarter. I’m happy that we won the game, but I am really concerned with the way we are playing right now,” Boylan said. ”It’s not good enough. We need to play better. Right now we are not a very good team. You can’t rely on scoring 45 points in the fourth quarter in order to pull a game out at home.”
The Bucks, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, are looking to improve their position heading into the season’s final stretch.
”First of all, we are not in the playoffs,” Boylan said. ”If you play a casual kind of game without the intensity that is necessary to win, then you are going to lose. We need to turn it up and we need to be a serious team. Right now we are not playing like a serious team.”
Boylan was especially critical of his team’s effort on defense.
”The defensive end is where the problems are – period,” he said. ”We don’t play any defense. We are not committed to it. We were very, very lucky to win this game.”
Ellis’ fourth-quarter scoring spree included a fast-break dunk off a slick pass from backcourt mate Brandon Jennings.
”It was just one of them days where you feel it and the crowd got into it,” Ellis said. ”My teammates had faith in me to give me the ball at the time and I was able to knock the shots down. I didn’t think about it. I just shot the ball.”
The Bucks ended the game on a 30-12 run, handing the Magic their eighth loss in 10 games.
The Magic were up 97-85 midway through the final quarter, but back-to-back 3s by Ellis cut the lead to six points. The dunk by Ellis later in the quarter brought the Bucks to 101-99.
Orlando’s Arron Afflalo connected on a 3 to make it 104-99 before Ellis made another 3-pointer to again slice the lead to two. The teams exchanged baskets until an Orlando missed shot led to Ersan Ilyasova’s layup at the other end off an assist from Jennings to tie it at 108.
Magic rookie Mo Harkless made one of two free throws to put Orlando ahead 109-108 with 1:08 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Larry Sanders made a hook shot to put the Bucks in front 110-109. Jameer Nelson missed a shot and Ellis sank his fifth 3 of the quarter to put the Bucks up 113-109 with 13 seconds remaining.
A five-second violation on Orlando gave the Bucks the ball again. J.J. Redick added two free throws as the lead grew to the final margin of 115-109.
”It (doesn’t) play out the way we always picture it, but tonight we just played extra, extra hard down the stretch to get a win,” Ellis said.
Ilyasova had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Milwaukee. Jennings added 15 points and 14 assists.
Afflalo scored 24 points and Harkless had a career-high 23 for the Magic. Nikola Vucevic added 20 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.
”In the fourth quarter we didn’t defend like we did the first three quarters,” Vucevic said. ”We played well for most of the game, but at the end of the game Monta Ellis made some huge shots, some tough shots. We didn’t make the right adjustments. We didn’t defend it right. They got back into it and got the win.”
Orlando outscored Milwaukee 62-40 in the paint.
”We were just moving the ball and I had a chance to get a lot of easy buckets. My teammates were able to find me,” Vucevic said.
Tobias Harris, traded by the Bucks to Orlando in a six-player deadline deal last month that brought Redick to Milwaukee, gave a wry smile when asked if he had seen Ellis have an outburst like he did in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
”Not that many 3s, to be honest,” Harris said. ”He was hot and they made some real tough shots. They made shots that were contested and shots where they had a lot of bodies around them. (Ellis) is a big-time player and he makes those plays.”
The Bucks began the game by missing 11 of their first 13 shots while the Magic failed to connect on nine of their first 12 attempts. Orlando improved its shooting and led 25-18 after the period.
The Bucks’ shooting woes continued in the second quarter. Milwaukee finished the first half shooting just 30 percent and trailed 54-44. The Bucks opened the third on a 7-0 run, but the Magic rebuilt the lead to 13 late in the quarter. Orlando was up 81-70 going into the fourth.
”You have to give Milwaukee credit for continuing to play throughout the course of the game,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. ”Our focus and our intensity has to be the same throughout. We will all do some self-examination. I will see what I could have done better to put our squad in a better position to win.”
NOTES: The Bucks improved to 8-0 at home on St. Patrick’s Day. … Magic rookie forward Andrew Nicholson returned after missing Friday night’s game and not practicing Saturday while quarantined because of illness. … Milwaukee’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute missed his fourth consecutive game with a turf toe injury. Marquis Daniels, who scored 14 points against Miami on Friday night, started in his place. … The rare noon start required the teams to alter their routines. ”It’s just different. Do you go to bed earlier? When do you wake up to eat? How much do you eat? Routine-wise, it throws you off,” Vaughn said.