When the Milwaukee Bucks needed even more out of Jerryd Bayless, he delivered one of his best stretches of basketball this season.
As the leader of Milwaukee’ reserve unit, JB averaged 7.5 points per game in a busy week for the Bucks, with four games against a quartet of strong opponents. Milwaukee dropped 3-of-4 games during the week but gave themselves a chance to win every contest, as all three defeats came by six points or less.
Their ability to stay in contention was thanks in large part to No. 19’s efforts leading the charge and sharing the basketball. Bucks Coach Jason Kidd has predicated his team’s offense on ball movement, and that has remained a constant source of offensive success for Milwaukee. The Bucks’ tallied 22 or more assists in all four games. Over the final three games of the week, Jerryd averaged 7.3 assists per contest. His nine assists against the Utah Jazz on Thursday were a game-high, as were his eight dimes in the win over the Pistons on Saturday.
Milwaukee’s reserve unit has been one of the NBA’s best thanks to the efforts of Jerryd, Kendall Marshall and Co. this season. But after Marshall went down for the season with an ACL tear during the team’s win over the Knicks in London, the Bucks second unit didn’t miss a beat upon Milwaukee’s return stateside.
After news of Marshall’s injury broke, JB told reporters that the loss of Marshall will likely lead to him spending more time on the ball than as an off-the-ball scorer. But his versatility is one of the reasons the Bucks signed Jerryd in the offseason. He’s made it clear he’s willing to do whatever the team needs him to do to be successful.
After watching Jerryd run the second unit with success throughout the first half of the season, Coach Jason Kidd knows he can trust No. 19 to take the reins and lead the team at any time.
“He’s the backup point,” Kidd said of JB. “He knows his role and what he has to do.”
TIPPED BY TORONTO
Jerryd’s lowest minute total came in the first game of the week against the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
No. 19 played 15 minutes, tallying five points and two rebounds in the 92-89 loss.
Knight paced the Bucks with 20 points in the defensive bout, but unfortunately they needed just a few more from the Kentucky product.
The game went back and forth through nine lead changes and eight ties. The lead traded hands four times in the fourth quarter alone. Knight had a wide-open look from beyond the arc that would’ve tied the game with seven seconds left.
However, the shot was off its mark, and the Bucks fell just short of their upset bid against one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
“It was a wide-open shot,” Kidd said. “That’s all you can ask for. As a team, we had a great look and had one of our best shooters shooting the ball. Unfortunately it just didn’t go in.”
HEARTBREAK AT HOME
Two days between games did little to help the Bucks forget about the tough loss to Toronto, and it was déjà vu against the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
Utah raced out to a 16-point lead in the first minute of the second quarter before JB got involved in a big way.
Jared Dudley canned a three to start a 17-5 run. After that trifecta, Jerryd assisted on Milwaukee’s next seven shots, and the Bucks cut the deficit to four, 37-33.
Jerryd finished with six points, a game-high nine assists, two rebounds and a block. The game ran through five lead changes, one of which came early in the fourth quarter, when JB dished on a John Henson dunk to make it 83-82.
Shortly after, Bayless scored on an O.J. Mayo assist to stretch that lead to three. Over the closing stretch, Utah took back control behind Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter. The Jazz went up nine before the Bucks fired back on a 7-0 run to make it just a two-point game, 101-99, with 1:29 to go.
Milwaukee had several chances to tie or take the lead over the final minute, including a Dudley three and a mid-range jumper by Knight, but none of those shots fell, and the Bucks came up shy of the victory.
Despite the loss, JB, Dudley and the Bucks weren’t discouraged, and instead maintained their confidence as the team moves forward.
“We had opportunities, but you’ve got to give them credit,” Dudley said. “We had some shots at the end, but this has been happening to us, losing these home games. We understand we don’t have a huge home-court advantage because we’ve got to win fans over, keep winning, keep playing hard, and that will come.”
BUCKS BOUNCE BACK
After two straight one-possession losses, JB and the Bucks left no doubt when they took on the Detroit Pistons.
No. 19 had four points and a game-high eight assists, along with two boards, a steal and a block.
The Pistons had won 11 of their previous 14 games going into the meeting, and they jumped out to an early first-quarter lead.
Jerryd didn’t check in until the start of the second quarter, but he played all 12 minutes in that frame, and that’s where Milwaukee took over the game.
JB got things going by knocking down a technical foul free throw for his team’s first points of the frame. From there, he went to work getting the rest of the Bucks involved.
He first dished on a bucket by Henson, then handed off to Mayo for a three. After that came a Dudley three off a JB dime. Then shortly after, Jerryd kicked out to Mayo up top for another triple. On the next possession, No. 19 fed Mayo once more, this time in the corner for a three.
“You know guys turned down a good shot to get a better shot for a teammate,” Kidd said. “Make or miss that’s what good teams do.”
JB tossed out seven assists in the second, while Mayo had 12 points off 4-of-5 shooting from deep. The Bucks shot 63.6 percent from the floor to tally 40 points in the quarter and took a 14-point lead into halftime.
That hot streak continued in the third, where Milwaukee’s lead reached 30. But it was all about that big second frame, which set the tone for the runaway, 101-86, victory.
“I think we got back to playing Bucks basketball and sharing it, completing the passes and once the passes were completed, completing the play,” Kidd said. “(We were) able to make the extra pass, passing up a good shot to get a better shot. We talked about that the last couple days.”
SPURS SLIP BY
After topping one of the hottest teams in the NBA, the Bucks headed to San Antonio for a showdown with the defending NBA champion Spurs sporting a wealth of confidence.
The contest was a wire-to-wire battle, and Jerryd came through with his biggest output of the week: 15 points, five assists, two rebounds, two steals and a block.
JB provided one of the game’s biggest highlights with just over a minute left in the first half, when he floated to the rim behind the Spurs defense and threw down a big two-handed lob tossed up by Knight. Jerryd tossed down that dunk through contact from Tim Duncan, and finished the three-point play at the line to make it 55-47 Bucks at the break.
Unfortunately, the Bucks couldn’t build off that momentum in the second half. Milwaukee shot just 21.1 percent from the field in the third quarter and turned the ball over eight times, allowing the Spurs to flip the game and take a two-point lead into the final frame.
“We have to come out better in the second half,” said swingman Khris Middleton. “We scored 12 points in the third quarter and that’s really what got them going. They played great defense but we’ve just got to fight through it and find ways to score in that situation.”
Behind JB, the Bucks found a way to score in the fourth and hung with the Spurs throughout the final frame.
No. 19 tallied 10 points and three assists while playing all 12 minutes of the fourth, and his efforts nearly brought Milwaukee all the way back. When he sank a six-foot floater with 52.6 seconds left, it was just a two-point game. He had another similar shot on the next possession, but this time, the shot didn’t fall. On the other, the Spurs went to the free-throw line and extended the lead to five, 101-95.
In the final 10 seconds, Middleton misfired on a three, but JB collected the rebound and drew a foul with just two seconds left.
When Jerryd stepped to the line, he had made 58 consecutive shots from the charity stripe—just one shy of Michael Redd’s franchise record of 59. However, with the game all but out of reach, JB missed for the first time in a long time.
“I can take responsibility,” Jerryd said. “I missed some shots I thought I had good looks at. We have to move on to the next game and get ready for Miami.”
After 44 games, Milwaukee sits at an even 22-22, but they’ve already far surpassed last season’s league-worst mark of 15-67 and exceeded expectations of them around the NBA.
But the Bucks aren’t content and their progress has JB confident about where they can go through the second half.
“We survived the first half and I thought we did pretty well,” Jerryd said. “We exceeded a lot of expectations. Hopefully this next half we can do the same thing.”
Milwaukee will be tested with another tough week ahead, starting with a two-game road trip in the Sunshine State. First they’ll head to Miami where they’ll take on the Heat (20-24) Tuesday night. Miami is one of several teams the Bucks are competing with for a playoff spot in the East.
Tipoff for that contest is set for 6:30 p.m. CST.
Milwaukee’s tour of Florida continues on Thursday in Orlando, where they’ll take on the Magic (15-32). Following the long stay in the Sunshine State, the Bucks will head back home to host one of the Western Conference’s best teams, the Portland Trail Blazers (32-13), to close the week on Saturday.
- Bayless falls one short of Redd’s free throw team record (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 26, 2015)
- With Marshall out, Bucks turn to Bayless to fill backup PG role (Fox Sports Wisconsin, Jan. 19, 2015)
- Injuries cutting into the depth of Bucks (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 18, 2015)
- Bayless on second half of the season (Bucks.com)
- Raptors at Bucks: Game Book (NBA.com, Jan. 19, 2015)
- Lowry scores 18, balanced Raptors beat Bucks (AP, Jan. 19, 2015)
- Jazz at Bucks: Game Book (NBA.com, Jan. 22, 2015)
- Hayward scores 24, Jazz hold on for win over Bucks (AP, Jan. 22, 2015)
- Pistons at Bucks: Game Book (NBA.com, Jan. 24, 2015)
- O.J. Mayo scores 20, hot-shooting Bucks beat Pistons (AP, Jan. 24, 2015)
- Bucks get back to team basketball in dismantling of Detroit (Fox Sports Wisconsin, Jan. 25, 2015)
- Bucks put it all together for home-court victory (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 24, 2015)
- Bucks at Spurs: Game Book (NBA.com, Jan. 25, 2015)
- Spurs rally in second half to top Bucks (AP, Jan. 25, 2015)
- Bayless falls short of Redd’s free throw team record (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 25, 2015)
- San Antonio shows championship mettle in second half (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 25, 2015)