The Milwaukee Bucks have spent the whole season searching for silver linings in losses, and Friday was no different. A bright spot in Milwaukee’s 112-104 loss to the Pelicans in New Orleans wasn’t hard to find, as Jeff Adrien continued to make a strong impression early on in his time with the Bucks.
Adrien scored a career-high for the second game in a row, putting up 20 points with 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
"He’s just getting better and better," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "When he’s out on the floor he does a lot of good things. He brings a physical presence when he’s out on the floor. Tonight, I thought he played really well."
With Ersan Ilyasova suspended one game by the league for throwing a punch in Wednesday’s loss and John Henson in early foul trouble Friday, Adrien got the call off the bench and made an immediate impact.
Adrien scored 12 points in the first quarter with two 3-point plays. The third-year forward entered Friday having scored 12 or more points just four times in his career, including a 15-point effort Wednesday against Utah.
"I definitely wouldn’t expect that," Adrien said. "I wish we had the wins the past two nights, but unfortunately we didn’t. I just thank God for giving me the ability to go out there and try to help my teammates win a game."
Known as a hustle player, Adrien was barely playing for Charlotte before the trade that sent him and Ramon Sessions to the Bucks for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour. Adrien is now averaging 9.1 points and 9.0 rebounds with Milwaukee, grabbing 10 or more rebounds in five of seven games.
He’s averaging 15.1 rebounds per 36 minutes for the Bucks but has also shown an ability to finish inside off hustle rebounds or when he catches down low.
"He was just aggressive," Henson said. "He didn’t have many plays run for him, but he attacked when he got the chance. When you play like that, I think his confidence is building up, that’s what happens.
"He’s been a spark for us ever since he got here, just rebounding and fighting. I think it’s a great addition for us, especially with the bigs we have down. Hopefully he can keep that up."
While Pelicans forward Anthony Davis made a big impact with 29 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, the 6-foot-7 Adrien was able to score inside with the big man around.
"I know he’s athletic and everything," Adrien said of Davis. "He’s long and would get into my shot if I go up straight up. You just have to keep him on his toes pump faking, quick moves and try to beat him to the offensive glass to get buckets like that. It’s a thinking game out there. He’s a great player. He’s very tough."
The Pelicans held on for a 102-98 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in February despite Davis being held to just 12 points and one rebound. Their star controlled the second meeting between the two teams, including hitting a shot while falling over to put New Orleans up 78-77 at the end of the third quarter.
"That’s the kind of nights some dudes have, you know what I’m saying?" Henson said. "That’s a credit to his touch shooting a shot like that and making it. Not much you can do about that."
Losing their cool: Bucks guard O.J. Mayo was ejected from Friday’s game after being called for a flagrant-2 foul for striking Pelicans center Greg Steimsma near the throat.
Mayo took offense to a hard screen set by the former University of Wisconsin big man where he appeared to get hit in the face. He retaliated by extending an open-handed blow to the throat of Steimsma.
It was the second incident a Bucks player has been involved with in as many games. Ilyasova punched Reggie Evans in the stomach and shoved him to the ground Wednesday and was suspended one game by the NBA for his actions.
"I’m not concerned," Drew said. "I know how physical the game gets and emotions do get high. You just have to learn how to control yourself. There’s no need to panic."
The Bucks could have used both players against New Orleans, as Milwaukee struggled to shoot from the perimeter. All 18 of Milwaukee’s first-half field goals came in the paint. The Bucks were 0-for-14 outside of the paint prior to halftime.