MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks won ‘ugly’ in a matchup of short-handed teams — and that’s just fine with Brandon Jennings.
Jennings scored 19 points, Monta Ellis had 17 points and 11 assists and the Bucks beat the Sacramento Kings 98-85 on Wednesday night for their third straight win.
“It was an ugly game,” Jennings said. “It seemed like the Sacramento Kings were going to turn it up at one point, but they never did.”
Missing their best player probably had something to do with that. The Kings were without center DeMarcus Cousins, suspended one game by the NBA earlier in the day after striking Dallas’ O.J. Mayo in the groin area in their road loss Monday night.
Ersan Ilyasova added 16 points and a season-high 14 rebounds for the Bucks, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored a season-high 17 points in his first start of the season for Milwaukee (11-9), which has its best 20-game start since 2005-06.
Tyreke Evans had 17 points in his return to Sacramento’s lineup after missing three straight games — and five of six — with a sore left knee. John Salmons added 16 points.
The Bucks never trailed and used a 12-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to take a 79-64 lead and put the game away.
“In the second half, we wanted to take over from the beginning, and we did that,” Mbah a Moute said. “We tried to play a little faster. At one point we were playing at their speed, where it slowed the game down and we weren’t getting anything.”
Besides Cousins, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, the Kings were without key reserve forward Marcus Thornton (personal reasons). The Bucks were missing their two starting forwards, Larry Sanders (illness) and Epke Udoh (left wrist sprain), and key reserves Mike Dunleavy (bruised left knee) and Beno Udrih (right ankle sprain).
The offenses struggled as the Bucks shot 41 percent (39 for 96) from the field to Sacramento’s 37 percent (32 for 86), and the Kings were just 3-of-19 (16 percent) on 3s.
“We took a lot of bad shots that led to frustrating possessions,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “This was a night where we didn’t move the ball. It still comes down to making the extra pass.”
The missed shots led to a lot of rebounds and Milwaukee finished with a 60-50 edge.
Drew Gooden finished with 10 boards in his first extended playing time (22½ minutes) of the season. He was inactive much of the year before making his debut last Friday.
“You have got to credit our defense at least, to make the team miss that many shots,” Gooden said. “We had 24 offensive rebounds. … That’s just the balls going up and guys going after it and having the passion to go get that ball.”
Jason Thompson had a season-high 15 rebounds for Sacramento, which probably missed Cousins most on the boards.
“That is a strength of his,” Smart said of Cousins. “You have to pay attention to what he does. Obviously, not having him around, somewhere along the line he was going to grab a lot of those rebounds that were floating there.”
Jennings agreed: “With that post presence, that guy they can get the ball to in the post, with him getting easy buckets for them, I think they missed him a lot.”
The Bucks jumped to an early 20-10 lead and led 29-19 after the first quarter, as Ellis sank a half-court shot to beat the buzzer. Sacramento used a 10-0 run to tie it at 32.
Two Bucks players picked up technical fouls with 2:04 left in the second quarter after exchanging words with referee Ken Mauer. Tobias Harris was whistled after arguing over a no-call following a layup attempt.
Then, as Harris was having a cut attended to near the bench, Mauer whistled Gooden, who was sitting on the bench. The technical free throws made it 43-39, but Milwaukee scored the last six points of the half to lead by 10 at the break. Mbah a Moute had 13 in the half.
Ellis added eight rebounds in his bid for his third career triple double. The Bucks forced 17 Sacramento turnovers.
“We got a lot of stops, and we got in the open court and ran,” Ellis said. “We got pretty much what we wanted.”
The Kings didn’t.
“We had a lot of mental mistakes on defense,” said guard Aaron Brooks, who had 10 points and six assists. “We gave up wide-open shots, second-chance shots, turnovers, and we shot badly. We just had a bad overall game. We still had a chance to win the game, and that makes it really frustrating.”
NOTES: Milwaukee started 12-8 in 2005-06 en route to a 40-42 season. … Dunleavy has missed four straight games, and Udrih has missed six straight. … The teams’ last meeting came on Jan. 5, when the Kings came from a 21-point halftime deficit to beat Milwaukee 103-100 in Smart’s coaching debut. … Evans had a message for Cousins after the game: “Just play smart, go out there and play basketball. That’s what you get paid for. Just got to do a better job of going out and playing basketball, that’s it. He’s been doing a good job this year, though.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)