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Short-handed Bucks hold off Kings

The SportsXchange

SACRAMENTO -- The Milwaukee Bucks ignored adversity Sunday night as they took another step toward securing an Eastern Conference playoff berth, beating the Sacramento Kings 115-113.

An announced crowd of 14,761 at the Sleep Train Arena watched the Bucks shake off injuries to J.J. Redick (ankle), Larry Sanders (knee) and Ersan Ilyasova (knee) and use a diversified offense to hold off a shaky Kings team.

Until late in the fourth quarter, the Kings were unable to solve Milwaukee's interior defense. The Bucks (32-29) were led by Ekpe Udoh, who had four blocked shots and seven rebounds to go along with 10 points, but they were just as effective in changing Sacramento's interior shots.

The Kings (22-43) were hurt by the third-quarter ejection of center DeMarcus Cousins. The enigmatic Cousins collided with Milwaukee's Mike Dunleavy late in the period. When Cousins got off the floor and headed to the bench during a timeout, he spent much of the walk venting his frustration.

After the timeout, Cousins and Dunleavy continued talking, and they both received technical fouls. On the next play, Dunleavy cut through the lane, and Cousins made obvious contact.

"He elbowed me in the neck," said Dunleavy, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half. "It's pretty much what the film shows. I'm not really sure what he was doing."

Cousins was whistled for a flagrant-2 foul, thereby earning his fourth ejection of the season, an NBA high.

Cousins, who wound up with a team-high 24 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes, wasn't around after the game to explain himself.

Kings coach Keith Smart said he thought Cousins was en route to a 40-point performance.

"Regardless of what the circumstances are," Smart said, "we try to share with him that we need him in the game and on the floor. Obviously, that didn't happen and we lost him."

Smart could have removed Cousins from the game following the first technical, but he said such talk is hindsight.

"Who can honestly say they knew what was going to happen?" Smart queried.

The Kings launched a surprising comeback during the game's final minutes and got within 115-113 after Jimmer Fredette made the first of two free throws with four seconds left. Fredette intentionally missed the second. The ball bounced back to him at the free-throw line, and Milwaukee's Monta Ellis made contact.

No call came, and Sacramento's Tyreke Evans missed a desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer.

Milwaukee coach Jim Boylan lauded Fredette's missed free throw.

"That was a great play by him at the end," Boylan said of Fredette, who scored 11 points in the game's final four minutes and wound up with 14 points in nine minutes. "We knew he was going to miss, but to be that accurate with the miss and hit the rim and have it come right back to him in no time ..."

Ellis scored 29 points, the top total among six Bucks who finished in double figures. He also had nine assists. Brandon Jennings contributed 16 points and eight assists, and Dunleavy added 16 points. Milwaukee won its second straight road game to end a three-game West Coast swing.

Evans had 20 points, and Jason Thompson added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Kings.

NOTES: Milwaukee improved to 6-2 since the trade deadline, and it has scored 100-plus points in seven of those eight games. ... The Kings began the week against Denver and the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, Ty Lawson. On Sunday, they went against Ellis, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week. ... Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas made five of six free throws, leaving him 83-for-86 (96.5 percent) over the past 18 games. ... Jennings averaged 14.5 assists per game over the Bucks' previous four games. ... The Kings had made 10 or more 3-pointers in seven of their previous nine games, but they went just 6-for-22 from long range Sunday. ... Boylan isn't worried about his team's potential playoff opponent. "I just would like to be in the playoffs, playing well and be healthy," he said. "After that, I can handle anything." Milwaukee is in eighth place in the East, with an 8 1/2-game lead over the ninth-place Toronto Raptors. The Bucks are just two games behind the Chicago Bulls, who hold fifth place.
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