The Milwaukee Bucks were tired of losing close games. They just needed somebody to step up and slam the door.
Tuesday night in Dallas, Monta Ellis did just that. Playing point guard down the stretch, Ellis put together one of his best performances of the season on both ends of the court.
Scoring 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, Ellis added nine assists and six steals to help Milwaukee snap its three-game losing streak with a 95-90 win over the Mavericks.
“Monta was incredible, pretty much all night long,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “He was all over the floor. Some of the steals he had were amazing. There aren’t many guys that can do that. The energy he played with, that was the difference in the game for us.”
With Dallas up, 88-83, with 3:13 to go, Ellis scored seven of Milwaukee’s next nine points, including what turned out to be the game-winning jumper with 1:02 to go, breaking a 90-90 tie at the time.
“I just took what the defense gave me,” Ellis said. “They kept going under (screens) and then when I got it going they didn’t know if they wanted to go under. I just took whatever the defense gave me and made the right plays at the end of the game.”
It wasn’t just offensively that Ellis made an impact Tuesday night, he also set the tone on defense. Three of his six steals came in the fourth quarter, leading to instant offense on the other end. After he scored a three-point play to cut Dallas’ lead to 88-86, Ellis tipped a pass for a steal and dished ahead to a cutting Mike Dunleavy to tie the game at 88-88.
About the same time Milwaukee made its 12-2 run to close the game, Boylan made the decision to sit point guard Brandon Jennings and close the game with Ellis at the point and newly acquired J.J. Redick playing shooting guard. Jennings was struggling to find his shot, and Ellis and Redick were both playing well.
In the end, the decision to ride the hot hands proved crucial to the victory.
“I felt that group was playing well together,” Boylan said. “I saw the game kind of slipping from us a bit and I needed to get those guys out there again. I went back to J.J. and it worked out for us.”
Tuesday’s win was an important one for the Bucks. Not only did it snap their losing streak, it guaranteed at least a split of the Texas back-to-back with the Rockets looming Wednesday night. Houston is playing better basketball than Dallas and presents a bigger challenge, especially because the Rockets will be fully rested and the Bucks won’t be.
“We finally get the monkey off our back,” Ellis said. “It’s a relief. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and see what our game plan is and see what happens.”