8:00 PM ET, February 9, 2009
BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
Second-half run helps new-look Bucks end eight-game skid vs. Rockets
• The Bucks beat Houston for the first time since Dec. 28, 2004.
• With 25 wins, Milwaukee is just one shy of tying its total from all of last season.
• Four Bucks scored 20-plus points.
-- ESPN research
Villanueva scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Sessions had 26 points and seven assists to give Milwaukee a 124-112 victory over Houston on Monday night that snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Rockets.
"We're coming in night in and night out sticking with the game plan, trying to defend well and let the offense come to us," said Sessions, who had a career-high 44 points Saturday night in an overtime loss to Detroit. "That's what we're both doing and we're able to score our points."
The pair combined for 77 points in a loss to the Pistons, but played even better against Houston in a dominant performance by the Bucks, who had lost two straight overall and had a four-year skid to Houston.
Yao Ming finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting and Tracy McGrady had three points on 1-of-9 shooting. Yao also had 10 rebounds, but was plagued by early foul trouble and only played 19 minutes with the game out of reach.
"We made them uncomfortable," Villanueva said. "Get them out of the game, get them in foul trouble, put them on drag screens, make them defend and it worked to perfection. We kept them out of the game."
Said McGrady: "Right now, we're just a team that doesn't know how to play defense."
The Bucks exposed it, too, shooting 52 percent from the field even without top scoring threats Michael Redd (knee), Andrew Bogut (back) and Luke Ridnour (thumb). Richard Jefferson added 25 points, reserve Charlie Bell had 21 and Keith Bogans 13 as Milwaukee (25-29) moved within one win of its season total last year.
"It really shows the tremendous improvement this team has made last year to this year, almost having the same amount of wins at the All-Star break as we had last year. Mike missed pretty much half the games, Andrew has missed a lot, now we've lost Luke," said Bell, who hit his first seven shots. "It just really shows the will and the heart of this team with all the injuries we've had, guys are still going out there playing hard and we're not giving up on this season."
Houston had won three of the previous four, but gave up at least 104 points in its fifth straight road game. Aaron Brooks scored a career-high 23 points, Luis Scola and Ron Artest had 20 points apiece and Carl Landry added 16 for the Rockets.
"I wish it were under different circumstances," said Brooks, who wasn't aware of his new mark until after the game.
Rockets coach Rick Adelman declined to talk about Yao and McGrady's efforts, saying the whole team was disappointing.
"We go home and play with more energy, with more resolve and more of an urgency and then we come out here knowing that teams are going to play better at home and we don't come out with the effort," Adelman said. "They shot it very well. They passed the ball well. They had 31 assists. They did everything they wanted to do."
Midway through the third quarter, Villanueva sparked a 14-0 run by contributing 10 points and the Bucks showed first-year coach Scott Skiles their improving effort on defense this year.
Sessions, who has taken over at point guard for Ridnour, stripped Rafer Alston and converted a layup. Villanueva hit back-to-back 3-pointers off assists from Jefferson to make it 87-65. Milwaukee was never threatened from that point.
The valuable minutes both Sessions and Villanueva are playing could pay off even if the Bucks fall short of the postseason. Both are restricted free agents at the end of the year and Milwaukee's financial situation is shaky because the team doesn't want to pay a luxury tax.
"The opportunity is there. There's a chance to play a lot of big minutes, just taking advantage of the opportunity and being consistent, too," Villanueva said. "It goes for all the guys."
Milwaukee signed veteran G Eddie Gill to a 10-day contract Monday. Gill played eight minutes and had two points and four assists. ... The Bucks previously beat Houston 115-87 on Dec. 28, 2004, in Milwaukee. ... Milwaukee has not lost consecutive home games this season. ... McGrady had scored 20 or more points against the Bucks in 19 straight games and averaged 32.1 points per game until Skiles took over. This season, McGrady is 4-of-19 for 10 points in two games.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||31-73 (.425)||47-89 (.528)|
|3PM-3PA||12-26 (.462)||10-20 (.500)|
|FTM-FTA||38-43 (.884)||20-26 (.769)|
|Fast Break Points||6||16|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||23 (0/0)||25 (1/0)|