Bucks 108, Hawks 101
Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles knew Monta Ellis would eventually start putting up the big numbers he became known for with Golden State.
''You know when you make a move like that to get a significant player, there has got to be some period of time where you have got to allow for the guy to adjust and people to adjust to him,'' Skiles said before Tuesday night's game against the Atlanta Hawks. ''It wouldn't surprise me at all for him to have a big breakout game at any moment.''
Those pre-game comments from the Bucks coach proved prescient after Ellis lit up the Hawks for 33 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, to lead Milwaukee to a 108-101 victory.
Brandon Jennings added 18 points for the Bucks, who moved within two games of the idle New York Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Ellis, who has struggled since coming over in a trade from the Warriors on March 14, tied a season low with four points against the Knicks on Monday. On Tuesday, he made 15 of 24 shots, including going 7 for 9 in the fourth quarter, and sealed the victory with a 15-foot jumper with 1:27 remaining. He added eight assists.
''It was only a matter of time and the time was tonight,'' Skiles said afterward. ''He was scoring the ball. He was active. He made big shots. When he was covered, he passed it.''
Despite the scoring outburst, Ellis didn't have a ''greedy game,'' Skiles said.
''I thought he played a very unselfish game,'' he said.
Ellis called it ''just one of those nights.''
''I was light on my feet. I was just moving. I went into one of my modes. It felt good,'' said Ellis, who noted that his wife was in attendance for the first time since he joined the Bucks, and he had a pregame video phone conversation with his children. ''I'm glad I was able to show the Bucks tonight. I want to take this game and build off it.''
Josh Smith led the Hawks with 30 points and 18 rebounds. Joe Johnson finished with 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
The Hawks had 22 turnovers despite entering the game averaging less than 14 per contest - fifth-best in the league.
''We had way, way too many turnovers,'' Haws coach Larry Drew said. ''You can't expect to win if you turn the ball over like that, particularly on the road.''
Said Smith: ''We had an opportunity to get a shot on each possession, but all night long from the jump, we were just real careless with the basketball.''
It was the fifth game in six nights for the Bucks, who were coming off an 89-80 loss to the injury-depleted Knicks. The Hawks were coming off a 139-133 four-overtime victory over Utah on Sunday - the league's first four-OT game since 1997.
''We were clearly fatigued and I thought they were, too,'' Skiles said. ''But when push came to shove and we needed to make a play, we were able to make it.''
The Bucks were without two key players: forwards Ersan Ilyasova (back spasms) and Carlos Delfino (right groin injury). Coach Scott Skiles called both ''day to day'' before the game.
The Bucks played only three reserves. Skiles credited the effort of his bench players, including Larry Sanders, who had four points, five rebounds and three blocked shots in about 14 minutes.
Ekpe Udoh, who came to the Bucks in the Ellis trade, started in Ilyasova's place and responded with eight points, three blocks and a career high-tying 10 rebounds in 31 minutes.
''I've got to help my team out any way I can,'' Udoh said.
The Bucks led 55-46 at halftime, but the Hawks used a 20-6 run over the last 6:58 of the third quarter to take a 79-78 lead. The Hawks made 12 of 17 shots in the period, while the Bucks missed their last five shots of the quarter.
Atlanta, which had been seeking a season-high fifth consecutive win, went up 81-78 with a basket to open the fourth, but Ellis had a steal and a breakaway dunk, two jump shots and a free throw in the first 5 minutes of the period to put Milwaukee up 89-85.
The score was tied at 91 when Mike Dunleavy hit a 3-pointer with 4:31 remaining. The Bucks never trailed again, as Ellis followed with a layup and jumper to make it 98-91.
Rookie Ivan Johnson had a career-high 17 points for Atlanta.
''You get into these types of situations, and the bottom line is that you've got to make plays down the stretch,'' Drew said. ''Tonight, we didn't.''
''In this league, if you let scorers get into a rhythm, they'll pick you apart all night long,'' Johnson said of Ellis.
The Bucks' last seven wins had come against teams with a losing record, and they had not beaten a team above .500 since March 5.
Joe Johnson left the game less than 3 minutes in and received five stitches in his lip after colliding with teammate Zaza Pachulia, the team said. He returned at the 8:59 mark of the second.
The Bucks led by as many as 17 in the first half and 55-46 at halftime. Smith scored 13 points in the second quarter, and Johnson had just two points in the half on 1-of-5 shooting.
Notes: Luc Mbah a Moute started in place of Delfino. ... It was Udoh's first start since coming over in the trade. . The 24-point first-half scoring outburst by the Bucks' Mike Dunleavy on Monday night against the Knicks marked the most points scored by a reserve in a half this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.