MILWAUKEE — Jeremy Lin made it a point to run over to Nate Wolters after the game to offer a few words of praise and a message of encouragement.
The Rockets guard was just one of many who left the BMO Harris Bradley Center impressed with the performance the rookie put on in Milwaukee"s 101-95 loss to Houston on Saturday night.
Wolters finished with a career-high 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists and did a more than a respectable job guarding Lin down the stretch.
"He’s a mid-major guy like me and kind of came out of nowhere," Wolters said. "He’s a good guy to try and emulate. He just said keep your head up and keep working. That meant a lot."
Starting for the fifth consecutive game, the second-round pick out of South Dakota State was aggressive from the get-go. Wolters has battled the fine line between being aggressive while still being smart with the basketball.
He seemed to find that balance Saturday night, taking a career-high 15 shots.
"Nate played a solid game," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "I thought he really mixed up really well. He took his shots when they were there and drove the ball to the basket. His in-between game was working."
Though not a great 3-point shooter at this point in his career, Wolters hit his first triple since Dec. 27 against Brooklyn. He’s now 4-of-32 on the season from beyond the arc, a dimension of his game Wolters is looking to improve upon in the offseason.
"I was trying to be aggressive," Wolters said. "I got off to a decent start. Coach is giving me a great opportunity to play a lot of minutes, so I have to be able to produce. It felt good to have a pretty good game."
Sanders goes out: The tandem of Larry Sanders and John Henson just can’t seem to get consistent minutes together for one reason or another.
Starting together for the first time ever Saturday night, the duo’s time on the floor lasted just four minutes and 23 seconds. That’s when Sanders went down after taking an inadvertent elbow from James directly to the right eye.
Sanders experienced some blurred vision and did not return to the game, leaving the Bucks even more shorthanded. Milwaukee started the game with nine bodies available and had to finish with just three healthy big men to battle Dwight Howard.
"It hurt, man," Henson said. "It’s part of the game. I think he’ll be fine in a couple of days. I think he’ll get healthy after the All-Star break, as well. We’re going to tough it out for the next couple of games."
Sanders’ right eye was swollen, and he said he was still experiencing problems seeing side to side. He expressed confidence in being able to play Monday against Boston.
Starting because Ersan Ilyasova was out with a back injury, Henson ended up playing 41 minutes and scored 14 points with 10 rebounds. But Drew and the Bucks were unable to get a look at their two long, athletic big men together.
The two have played just 73 minutes together, as both have battled injuries throughout the season.
"It’s one of those things," Henson said. "There’s plenty of time for us to be back in the fold together. I’m just hoping he gets healthy enough and he’s fine for the long run."
Without Sanders, Milwaukee had one less able body to try and contain Howard. The All-Star center ended up with 27 points and 13 rebounds and even hit five-of-seven free throw attempts.
"That’s a big boy, man," Henson said. "He’s a load down there. That’s why he is who he is. We didn’t do a particularly good job of containing him, but that’s part of the game."
Complimentary Rockets: Praise for the way the Bucks fought came pouring out of Houston’s locker room following the game. Milwaukee was able to hang around with one of the Western Conference’s best teams and had a chance to tie in the final minute.
"Their record doesn’t show it, but they fight hard," Harden said. "They’re a great group of young guys that play together."
Howard had similar thoughts.
"I think they have a very toungh team and they are learning how to play together," Howard said. "With a veteran like Zaza (Pachulia), he is able to really help them out. They are going to get better. Their record doesn’t look like it now, but you have to give them time. They have one of the youngest guys in the league, so it’s going to take time."
Injury update: Along with Ilyasova, Bucks guard Luke Ridnour dressed but was unavailable Saturday due to back spasms.
Ekpe Udoh and Caron Butler were out again due to sprained left ankles, while O.J. Mayo sat out again as he works to improve his conditioning.