MILWAUKEE Jim Boylan certainly didn't sugarcoat anything about the way the Milwaukee Bucks played Sunday afternoon, though he couldn't help but smile after watching the show Monta Ellis put on to will the Bucks to victory.
Ellis scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and 33 points in the second half to finish with a season-high 39 points in Milwaukee's 115-109 comeback win over Orlando.
Down 97-85 with 6:32 to play, Ellis scored 19 and hit five-three pointers in Milwaukee's 30-12 run to close the game. His 25 points in the fourth quarter were the most by any NBA player this season, passing Deron Williams, Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson and Isaiah Thomas' 23-point quarters.
"It was just one of those days where you feel it," Ellis said. "The crowd got into it. My teammates had faith in me to give me the ball at the time, and I was able to knock the shots down. I didn't think about it, I just shot the ball."
Without Ellis' heroics the storyline would have been completely different. Not only did the Bucks not come out ready to play for the noon start, they never got on track for the game's first 40 minutes.
Milwaukee had to rely on a 45-point fourth quarter -- one point shy of the most points scored in a quarter in the NBA this season -- to avoid a fourth-straight loss. Against a better opponent than the now 18-49 Magic, the Bucks would have been buried and Ellis may not have had the chance to provide the heroics.
"I'm happy we won the game, but I'm really concerned with the way we're playing right now," Boylan said. "It's not good enough. We need to play better. We need to be a better team. Right now we're not a very good team.
"You can't rely on scoring 45 points in the fourth quarter in order to pull a game out at home. You have a noon game, you want to see how guys are going to be. (Orlando was) OK. They were fine. There's no excuse for us to play the way we played."
While Ellis carried the load offensively, Milwaukee got key plays from others that won't show up in the box score. Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova had huge baskets late in the fourth quarter, while Ilyasova also took a big charge to foul Magic forward Tobias Harris out of the game. Ilyasova may have had the play of the game when he dove into the first row and fell hard to save a loose rebound that eventually led to Ellis' dagger three-pointer with 13 seconds left.
The effort and energy came just in time and was contagious.
"It was a total team effort," Ellis, who fought through a thigh bruise, said of the fourth quarter. "We didn't want to lose this game and go (four) in a row, so we did everything we could to get back in the game and win the game.
"It doesn't always play out the way we always picture it, but tonight we just played extra, extra hard down the stretch to get a win."
A loss Sunday would have nearly crippled Milwaukee's hopes of moving out of the Eastern Conference's eighth seed. The win temporarily moved the Bucks within three games of Chicago, Boston and Atlanta, but could put them 2-12 games behind the Hawks later tonight pending the outcome of Atlanta's game against Brooklyn.
While the Bucks still face the Hawks three times this season, Boylan sees little chance of improving their seed unless progress is made -- quickly.
"We want to throw the word 'playoff' around very easily around here, and the players are hearing it," Boylan said. "First of all, we're not in the playoffs. We're not there yet, and we have to get there. The way we're playing right now, that's not good enough. We're not good enough. We need to look at ourselves and figure out what we need to do and get it done."
The Bucks aren't celebrating Sunday's victory as a major accomplishment, but instead realizing there's a long way to go to getting back on track. But because of Ellis' tremendous effort, they can at least get back to work Monday with a win.
"The way he can turn it on like that and the explosiveness he has going to the basket, it's a beautiful thing to watch standing on the sidelines," Boylan said. "It's what makes the NBA game a beautiful game."
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