Jerryd Keys Bucks 5-Game Win Streak

After losing four of their last six games, the Milwaukee Bucks started a new week with a clean slate—and Jerryd Bayless made sure their new beginning kicked off with a win.

The Bucks started out on the road against the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, and they nearly saw an early lead turn into a late loss before JB stepped in.

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat

The Bucks guard came through with a tremendous 11-point fourth quarter, going 5-of-7 from the field while adding three assists to fuel a key 109-102 win. After the victory, JB talked about how his vital fourth-quarter performance came down to just playing smart basketball.

“I was just trying to make something happen,” Jerryd said. “It wasn’t necessarily looking to score, it was just the shots that were there. I was just trying to take advantage of the shots that were there.”

Jerryd’s fantastic fourth didn’t just help the Bucks secure that Tuesday night win—it also sparked a five-game winning streak—a span that included a pair of wins against a top playoff contender from each conference.

JB BEATS THE HEAT

The affair in Miami was a wild one from start to finish. Milwaukee and Miami raced neck-and-neck through the first, and after eight lead changes and five ties, the Bucks led 30-29.

Jerryd checked in for the first time in the second, where he knocked down a pair of free throws and dished out two assists: both on 20-foot jumpers by Jared Dudley to help the Bucks stretch their lead early in the frame.

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat

No. 19 has been an integral part of the guard rotation for the Bucks all year, and as the team has worked through injuries lately, he has only stepped up. After the win in Miami, Dudley talked about exactly what JB and the rest of the experienced and unselfish Milwaukee guards bring to the table.

“We have a lot of veterans on that bench,” Dudley said. “We’ve got guys who have been five or six years in the league. We’re all secure in ourselves and you can see on the court we’ll give up a good shot to get a great shot.”

Thanks in part to JB’s dishes, Dudley led the way with eight points in the second, and Milwaukee took a 54-50 lead into the locker room.

The Heat awoke in the third, and a Norris Cole trifecta gave them a 10-point lead with just under four minutes to go in the quarter—but then Jerryd and the Bucks backcourt fought back.

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat

O.J. Mayo started it off with a three-point play, then JB checked back into the game and made an immediate impact. He kept Mayo going, dishing to his teammate on a three. On the next possession, he set up Dudley for a two-point jumper to cut the deficit to two.

JB then knocked down a long two of his own at the one-minute mark, and the two squads went to the final frame tied at 82.

In the fourth, it was Jerryd’s time.

No. 19 played all 12 minutes of the fourth, and he ignited the Bucks early with a long two to give them an 87-86 lead. That bucket opened up room for him to facilitate. He dished to Mayo on back-to-back buckets, stretching the lead to four.

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat

The advantage reached six before Chris Bosh cut it down to four with a tough jumper over the outstretched arm of Giannis Antetokounmpo. But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession, JB answered back, knocking down a triple off a setup from Giannis.

After that three, Jerryd kept his foot on the gas. Including that three, he either scored or assisted on 11 straight points to suffocate the Heat.

First came a little pull-up jumper from inside the key. After that, JB had two more mid-range jumpers in his back pocket, which were sandwiched by his dime to Khris Middleton. The 11-point run, which was broken only by a three from Bosh, gave the Bucks a commanding 12-point lead with less than two minutes to play.

“(Jerryd) was like Kobe (Bryant) shooting fadeaways and knocking them down,” Dudley said. “We’re very versatile. We’ve got combo guards; we’ve got 3-4s; we’ve got point guards. So I think Coach went with the hot hand.”

That JB-fueled rally sealed the deal for Milwaukee. Afterward, coach Jason Kidd talked about how Jerryd stepped in and came through with an incredibly productive final frame when the Bucks needed it the most.

“Bayless got going and got hot offensively,” Kidd said. ” The nice thing about Bayless is that all the shots were great looks and under control. The easiest one was probably the one he missed.”

Jerryd finished with 15 points to lead all bench players, while adding a team-high seven assists and four rebounds. Milwaukee’s second unit combined to outscore the Miami reserves 54-13.

“We needed to mix and match and make something happen, and it worked,” JB said. “I was just trying to make plays for myself and others. We have good players on this team. We have guys that can really play and I think we’re showing it on a nightly basis. We’ve just got to continue to do that.”

JERRYD NETS 19 IN ORLANDO WIN

Milwaukee Bucks v Orlando Magic

Two nights later and again on the road, it was the Jerryd Bayless show against the Orlando Magic.

Unlike the previous tilt, there was little worry or need for heroics. Milwaukee never trailed as JB put in a team-high 19-points with three steals, two boards and an assist. He was remarkably efficient along the way, going 6-for-9 from the field, 2-of-2 from three and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe.

“It was a great game, not just the first half,” Kidd said. “From start to finish our guys executed the game plan. They shared the ball. We were close to having 30 assists (29), something we’ve been doing of late. And they ended the trip on the right note.”

The Bucks shot 51.7 percent in the win and held an overwhelming 29-14 assist advantage. Jerryd concurred with his coach, identifying ball movement and efficiency as the key to the breezy victory.

“The ball is moving and everybody is sharing it,” Bayless said. “When you can get open looks, good things happen. I think you see it right now with everybody. It was a very good trip. I think we’ve shown we can compete in the league. We’ve just got to play the right way, and if we do that we’re OK.”

Milwaukee Bucks v Orlando Magic

The Bucks jumped out to a 28-18 lead after one, and Jerryd kept them going in the second, first with two made free throws, then with an assist on Jorge Gutierrez, who joined the fold on a 10-day contract.

Jerryd went off for 13 points in the second. He had 11 of his team’s final 14 points before the half, including a gritty old-school three point play. JB drove into the teeth of the Magic defense, drew contact and dropped the scooping lay-in. He also buried a long two pointer at the end of the half, giving the Bucks a 59-44 lead.

That cushion swelled to 96-71 in the third, and the Magic mounted a desperate charge in the fourth, but it was too little, too late. JB sunk two three-point daggers midway through the final frame to give him 19 for the game and kill Orlando’s hopes for a comeback.

The Bucks pulled out the comfortable win with an incredibly thin front line. Zaza Pachulia, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders were all out of action, forcing Jerryd and the guards to pick up the slack.

Even shorthanded, it was no problem with JB and Co. firing on all cylinders. Milwaukee’s five guards—Jerryd, Dudley, Mayo, Middleton and Brandon Knight—combined for 83 points.

“Obviously we miss those guys,” Jerryd said. “We really do need them, but everybody stepped up their play and did the best they could to help the team win.”

STAYING HOT AT HOME Portland Trail Blazers v Milwaukee Bucks

After winning two straight on the road, JB and the Bucks returned home to host one of the Western Conference’s best teams, the Portland Trail Blazers, and they received quite the heroes’ welcome.

A sellout crowd of more than 18,000 greeted the Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, and they rewarded their fans with yet another victory, a 95-88 triumph over the Blazers.

“It was great,” Jerryd said of the crowd. “You can see it starting to come together. It is an exciting time in Milwaukee. Hopefully it continues.”

Jerryd was in double figures for the fourth consecutive game, tallying 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while dishing out three assists and pulling down a pair of rebounds.

While Milwaukee snapped offensively in its previous contest against Orlando, it turned around and did it with defense against Portland. The Bucks held the Blazers to just 15 points and forced seven turnovers to take a 12-point lead after one.

JB helped to maintain that lead in the second with two key assists, the first of which was on a bucket by Mayo. A minute later, he got veteran forward and new addition Kenyon Martin involved.

Jerryd took the ball up top and penetrated into the middle of the Blazers defense. After drawing in several defenders, he laced a bounce pass through the defense to Martin, who finished with a big flush.

That gave Milwaukee a 14-point lead, though the Blazers ended the half on a run, cutting that down to just three. The Bucks kept them at arm’s length through the third before JB checked in late.

Mayo started Milwaukee’s late run with a three, before Jerryd knocked down back-to-back jumpers over the final 32 seconds of the quarter, giving the Bucks a 76-65 cushion.

Portland Trail Blazers v Milwaukee Bucks

The JB-OJ connection continued in the fourth, as Jerryd dished to Mayo on a layup to open the quarter. O.J. then followed it up with a trifecta, completing the 12-0 run.

After a brief answer by Portland, Jerryd kept it going with a triple of his own. That started a 10-2 run, all supplied by JB and Dudley. Dudley called JB’s three with one himself before the two traded short jumpers, inflating the Milwaukee lead to 20, 91-71.

From there, the game was out of reach. Milwaukee didn’t score over the final three minutes and still sent the Blazers home with a seven-point loss.

The contributions from Jerryd late in the third and early in the fourth proved to be vital. After the game, Dudley talked about that and how the Bucks fans helped the team keep up their intensity for four quarters against one of the NBA’s toughest teams.

“You’ve got to credit the fans,” Dudley said. “That was the biggest crowd since opening night. We had a little bit more energy, hit more shots, had a little more pep in our step. The big thing is when we gave up the lead in the second quarter we come back out in the third quarter and push it back. That shows we’re improving.”

D KEYS BIG EAST WIN Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors

After beating one of the West’s best at home, JB and the Bucks went on the road to take on one of the top teams from their own conference, the Toronto Raptors.

They knew they’d need a great all-around effort to top the Raptors, currently second in the East, and that’s exactly what they got—especially from No. 19.

Jerryd kept his hot streak going, tallying eight points, nine assists and seven rebounds, as the Bucks used a phenomenal defensive effort to shut down Toronto in an 82-75 victory.

“You see us out there moving, stunting and doing the things that matter,” JB said of the Bucks defense.

On this night, the Bucks played without their starting point man, Knight, resulting in some big minutes from JB. Jerryd took the court for 33 minutes, his highest total of the season.

He played a key part in silencing Toronto’s lethal guar trio. All-Star Kyle Lowry went just 1-of-7 for two points, sharpshooter Greivis Vasquez was 3-for-11 with eight points, and their second All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, was 5-of-16 for 16 points. Altogether, the Raptors shot a putrid 32.1 percent.

The Raptors managed just 14 points in the first before rebounding to score 27 in the second—but their offense did little outside of that second frame.

Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors

JB checked in late in the first and immediately went to work, tossing out three consecutive assists to Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Mayo to send the Bucks to the second up 23-14.

He had three more dimes in the second, including one on a triple from Mayo, as the Bucks weathered the offensive storm from Toronto. At the end of the half, JB went right at Lowry, blowing by the All-Star for a tough lay-up to make it 47-41, Milwaukee at the break.

JB nailed two mid-range jumpers and dished on a pair of threes by Dudley and Middleton in the third, and the Bucks took a commanding 13-point lead, 73-60, into the fourth.

In that final frame in the Air Canada Center, however, Milwaukee went ice cold. After Martin scored at the 11:51 mark of the fourth, the Bucks didn’t touch the scoreboard again until it read 3:26 and the Raptors had tied the game at 75.

Antetokounmpo broke the cold snap with a free throw, and soon after, JB set up Dudley on a crucial three to give the Bucks the boost they needed. Milwaukee scored the final seven points, including a long two from No. 19 to close the seven-point win.

Though he’s just 26 years old, Bayless is one of the elder players on the young Bucks squad, and he provided just that presence against the Raptors. When it came to an end, Milwaukee kept its cool and closed out a key victory.

“No one panicked on our side,” Kidd said. “We just kept playing.”

OT WIN VS L.A. Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks

Wednesday night’s win for JB and the Bucks over the Los Angeles Lakers proved the old adage to be true: There are no easy nights in the NBA.

Playing their fifth game in nine days with plenty of travel in between, the Bucks were challenged mightily by a struggling Lakers team. But somehow, someway—and despite playing just eight players on the night—Milwaukee pulled a victory out of its hat.

“We’re just grinding,” Mayo said. “Even if our energy isn’t there, our heart and effort is there. We found a way to get that win tonight.”

After JB had come through with some big outputs and clutch performances over the course of the team’s five-game win streak, Mayo and Knight took their turns against L.A.

Jerryd keyed up a jumper for Middleton late in the first, as the Bucks were out to a 26-24 lead. He then fed Mayo on a trifecta early in the second, only to see the Lakers respond with a 10-0 run and take a 54-46 lead to the half.

The third then belonged to the Bucks, who were paced by 10 points apiece from Antetokounmpo and Knight, making it a 74-68 Milwaukee lead for the fourth.

Early in the final period, however, that lead quickly evaporated. Los Angeles went on a 17-4 run—and the only thing that kept Milwaukee going scoreless in that frame were two free throws and a layup from JB.

The Bucks trailed all the way until the buzzer, when Mayo knocked down a gutsy three to send the game to OT tied at 94. Then in the extra period, it was all Knight, who had 10 points as the Bucks skirted away with an unlikely 113-105 victory.

As Kidd, Knight, Mayo and others attested after the game, the win was a testament to the growth and grit of this young Milwaukee ball club.

“We were talking about it earlier, and we thought this was a win we had to have,” Knight said. “Last year we never approached any game saying, ‘We’ve got to have this win; we can’t lose this game. You could just tell the entire attitude of our team has changed.”

NEXT UP

The Bucks (27-22) will close the week with a tough back-to-back, starting Friday night on the road against the Houston Rockets.

Next they will make the trip home for a quick turnaround against the Boston Celtics. That game starts a nice five-game homestand for the Bucks, which will conclude Sunday afternoon with a vital contest against the East-leading Atlanta Hawks.

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