Maybe all Brandon Jennings needed to snap out of a season-long funk in the second game of back-to-backs was a little good old-fashioned trash talking.
Scoring 13 points in the first half, Bulls guard Nate Robinson was feeling pretty good. One of the league’s best talkers, Robinson let Jennings have it.
35 points later, Jennings fueled another second half comeback at the United Center as the Bucks moved to 2-0 under new head coach Jim Boylan with a 104-96 victory over Chicago. The Bucks are 2-0 in Chicago for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
“He was talking trash in the first half and it kind of lit my fire,” Jennings said. “I just came out in the second half and just did what I do best.”
20 of his season-high 35 points came in the third quarter, as Milwaukee turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead heading to the fourth.
Jennings entered Wednesday averaging just 11.6 points on 28.7 percent shooting when playing in the second game of back-to-backs. Jennings’ struggles haven’t been the lone factor in Milwaukee’s 2-6 record in those games, but they certainly haven’t helped the cause.
Maybe Robinson’s mouth was just the jolt Jennings – and the Bucks – needed.
“I don’t know what set him off,” Boylan said. “(Those) are two guys that like to talk a lot and you put them in a room together, something is going to happen. Nate had it going for a while in the first half. Sometimes that gets (Brandon’s) motor going a little bit so he kind of went back at him.”
Early on, it looked like the Bucks were going to get blown out as the Bulls jumped out to a 21-7 lead early and were getting points in the paint at easy – just like Phoenix did against the Bucks on Tuesday night.
But for the second night in a row, whatever Boylan said at halftime worked and the Bucks dominated the third quarter and really turned it up on the defensive end. The easy buckets were gone, mainly because Larry Sanders was up to his old tricks.
Sanders – the league’s leader in blocked shots – swatted seven more against the Bulls, running his streak of games with at least four blocks to five. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the last to do that in a Milwaukee uniform and that was back in 1973-74.
“Larry’s presence around the basket is intimidating,” Boylan said. “People go in there and they are looking for him. On top of that you add John Henson, Ekpe (Udoh), we have a big long team and guys that can really clog the lane up. When you can do that and get the loose balls that get batted around and get out in transition and Brandon got it going like he can. We busted it open in the third quarter a bit.
“Chicago is a tough team and they fight to the end and that’s what it was, a fight to the end.”
What won the fight were big shots down the stretch from Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter after the Bulls cut the lead to just one.
After playing one of his best games of the season Tuesday against the Suns, Jennings followed it up with another stellar performance. Upset that Scott Skiles was let go, Jennings has been a motivated player the last two nights.
Boylan did try something different in order to get Jennings going in the second game of back-to-backs. The new coach cut Jennings’ minutes in the first game and then gave him earlier and more rest in the first quarter Wednesday.
“I thought let me just try something and we’ll see if this has any effect at all,” Boylan said. “Tonight it made me look like a genius where in other nights I’ll look like an idiot.”
For two nights at least, Boylan has looked like the former. But building momentum has been something the Bucks haven’t been able to do all season long. Friday’s home game against Detroit will be a true test to see if they can overcome that.
Ellis injured: Bucks guard Monta Ellis injured his ankle late in Wednesday’s victory and did not return.
While successfully saving a loose ball from going out of bounds, Ellis stepped and rolled his ankle on the foot of Ilyasova. Boylan didn’t have an update on the severity of the injury after the game, but said Ellis told him that he’s fine.