MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks have made it a goal to try and force their opponent take the first timeout of the third quarter.
But more often than not, coach Larry Drew and the Bucks have been the ones needing to burn an early one right out of halftime. On Monday, Milwaukee came out of break as the aggressors, opening the third quarter on a 22-6 run to blow the game open.
Led by Ersan Ilyasova’s 31 points, the Bucks led by as many as 33 points in a convincing 114-88 victory over the Utah Jazz in front of a season-low 10,022 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
"It was really refreshing that our guys came out to start the third quarter with some energy and juice and made some plays at the start of that third quarter," Drew said. "It all started with the first four minutes of that third quarter. We were able to execute offensively and just made some plays."
Milwaukee scored the final six points of the second quarter to lead 55-48 at the half and carried the momentum over into the final 24 minutes. Zaza Pachulia scored 10 points in the 22-6 spurt, while Ilyasova and Brandon Knight combined for 10.
It was a role reversal of sorts, as the Bucks have consistently found themselves blaming poor second-half starts for losses.
"We came out with focus and energy," Ilyasova said. "This was the biggest thing we were struggling with all season long. We kind of focused on that. We have a lot of games left, and we have to build on those things and hope next year we can get better."
Ilyasova, who finished one point off his career high, made 13-of-14 shots to finish a game with a shooting percentage over 90 for the third time in his career. The Turkish forward got to enjoy the fourth quarter from the bench with the game in hand.
"Sometimes you have those nights," Ilyasova said. "I will say we played with a lot of energy. We kind of knew they were playing a back to back and we had to give the first punch."
The Bucks outscored the Jazz, 40-19, in the third quarter, as Ilyasova had 13 points and Pachulia scored 12 in the period. Milwaukee started the second half 16-of-22 from the field with five offensive rebounds, losing the ball on just one of its first six misses.
"We were just really good," Drew said. "Ersan was unbelievable. He was just making shots all over the place. We just wanted to ride his hot hand as much as we could."
Utah was playing the second night of a back-to-back, competing with Indiana on Sunday before falling 94-91 on the road. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin made it a point to warn his team of the dangers of playing the Bucks after a tough loss, but his message didn’t seem to get across.
""They played hard," Jazz center Enes Kanter said. "They put their heart in it, they fight. Last night we played the best team in the NBA and were pretty good. Tonight, we played the worst team in the NBA, but they beat us and they embarrassed us."
Though they are just 2-4 in the stretch, the Bucks have played much better basketball since the trade that sent Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour to Charlotte for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien. Milwaukee has two wins by 20 or more points and two of their four losses have come to Indiana by a combined 16 points.
Sessions is averaging 13.2 points per game while making 29-of-32 free throws with the Bucks, while Adrien finished with 10 or more rebounds Monday for the fourth time in his five games in Milwaukee.
Adrien is averaging 0.49 rebounds per minute and 17.6 rebounds per 36 minutes with the Bucks.
"I can’t talk about just today’s game, but lately we’ve been playing together and sharing the ball more," Pachulia said. "This is part of the process and progress. It makes it so much easier to play that way.
"At the beginning of the season we weren’t playing together. Now it’s a different story. It’s so much fun to be out there when you share the ball. If somebody is open, you have to pass the ball."
The Bucks now have another opportunity to win consecutive games for the first time this season with Sacramento coming to the Bradley Center on Wednesday.
"I’m looking forward to it," Ilyasova said. "We have to break that. It is a little frustrating. We have to come up with some wins in a row."