Bucks wow massive crowd with solid win over Portland
MILWAUKEE -- There was a different kind of energy in the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Saturday night, as playoff-like as a January game could get.
The Milwaukee Bucks rewarded the second sellout crowd of the season at the BMO Harris Bradley Center by putting together one of their finer efforts of the year.
Withstanding a strong second-quarter surge by one of the Western Conference's top teams, the Bucks built a 20-point advantage and held on for a 95-88 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers with 18,717 looking on.
"It was a great win here at home over a very talented team," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "I thought the crowd was great. It was a great turnout. I thought everything was great."
For most of the season, the Bucks have preached the importance of establishing any kind of home-court advantage. Milwaukee is 14-12 on the road, but entered Saturday just 9-10 at the Bradley Center.
With the first sellout crowd since the home opener providing one of the best home atmospheres of the season, Milwaukee built a 15-point lead in the second quarter.
Portland responded to tie the game with a 17-2 run, but a 3-point play by Brandon Knight at least left the Bucks with a halftime lead after dominating most of the first half.
The Trail Blazers hit two 3-pointers to take the lead at the start of the third quarter. Instead of letting momentum slip away, Milwaukee stemmed the tide. The Bucks used a 24-8 spurt covering the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter to grab a 91-71 advantage.
"(The Blazers) felt like they had control of the game," Kidd said. "I liked the way our guys came back and responded. They kept playing, they kept moving the ball and we got good looks."
Kidd's game plan to double-team All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge played a part in Milwaukee limiting the Trail Blazers to a season-low 37.1 shooting percentage. It helped that Damian Lillard went 6 of 19 from the field, but Aldridge was held under 20 points for just the third time this month.
Aldridge turned the ball over the first time the Bucks double-teamed him, something Kidd felt gave his team confidence in the game plan.
"You can't let a guy like that play one-on-one," Bucks forward Kenyon Martin said. "If he gets into a rhythm it will be a long night, as he's proven. We just tried to give him different looks. Doubled him a couple of times, played him single a couple of times.
"Not let him get comfortable, not let him get into a rhythm â I think that's what you have to do to good players in this league."
After dropping recent home games to Indiana and Utah, the Bucks have put together back-to-back impressive performances at the Bradley Center.
Saturday night's effort came with the building full for the first time since opening night. They saw the Bucks use the team-oriented formula that has worked for them all season long, as six players scored in double figures.
"You add that little more energy and we had a bit more pep in our step," Bucks forward Jared Dudley said. "They were on a back-to-back so we pushed the ball a little more and got after them.
"Fans want to see wins. Fans want to see excitement. I thought we did both of that tonight. We've been doing it more on the road than at home. When you have better attendance and a better atmosphere, usually players play better. That's just natural."
A sellout in many NBA cities is the norm. It would be significant in places like Portland if the arena weren't packed on a Saturday night. But in Milwaukee, the Bucks need to continue to win over fans.
"It was great," Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless said of the crowd. "You can see it starting to come together. It is an exciting time in Milwaukee. Hopefully it continues."
After finishing dead last in attendance during last year's disastrous 15-67 campaign, the Bucks have moved up to 26th this season. Wins over teams like Portland will only continue to bring people to the Bradley Center.
"With the new arena right there, with a young team learning how to play the right way, there are a lot of good things going on," Kidd said. "There's a lot of buzz in the city of Milwaukee. It is a great sports town. There are a lot of good things happening right now.
"Hopefully we can continue to keep building, learning how to win and then hopefully the new building comes with that."
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