Bucks hold off Trail Blazers

Kerry Eggers, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PORTLAND -- Brandon Jennings scored 30 points, including four free throws in the final 33 seconds, to lift the Milwaukee Bucks to a 110-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday night at the Rose Garden.
Ersan Ilyasova collected 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Bucks (21-18), who are 5-2 under interim head coach Jim Boylan.
Damian Lillard scored 26 points and dished out 10 assists for the Trail Blazers (20-20), who have lost five in a row for the first time this season. Wesley Matthews added 21 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 14 rebounds for the losers.
Portland rallied from a 22-point second-half deficit to within four in the final minute, but could get no closer.
"We squandered the lead a little bit, but it's an NBA game and the other team is going to make plays," Boylan said. "We could have closed out better, but when we needed to we made the plays, got the rebounds and the stops ... down the stretch."
Milwaukee increased a 17-point halftime lead to 75-53 midway through the third quarter. The Bucks' advantage was 80-59 when Portland -- thanks in part to a pair of technical fouls and ejection of Milwaukee center Larry Sanders by referee Danny Crawford -- went on an 11-0 run to get within 80-70 late in the quarter. Lillard's running 3-pointer as time expired cut the margin to 84-76 entering the final period.
The Bucks opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to go on top 91-76 with 9:30 remaining.
It was 104-90 with 3:30 left, but Wesley Matthews' 3-pointer finished a 10-0 run to draw the Blazers to within 104-100 with 44.7 seconds left.
But Jennings hit four of six free throws on Milwaukee's next three possessions to clinch the win.
"He showed tonight where he belongs -- that was an All-Star performance right there," Boylan said.
Milwaukee dominated from start to finish in the first half, jumping to a 30-12 lead and jetting in front 62-45 at halftime. Ilyasova (15 points, nine rebounds, four assists) dominated the interior and Jennings (15 points) got it done from the perimeter.
"The game got away from us again in the first quarter," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "That was a bad stretch for us. But the second quarter wasn't much better."
Portland had won four in a row and 12 of 15 before hitting its current five-game skid.
"We got out to a good start to January, played good basketball," said forward Nicolas Batum, who had seven points, seven rebounds and five assists as he played with a sore right wrist. "Now, I don't know why, we relaxed a little bit. We aren't playing the way we played the previous two weeks. We have to get back quickly to where we were before, starting Monday (against Washington)."
NOTES: Portland had eight turnovers in the game's first seven minutes, a direct result of seven Milwaukee steals. The Bucks wound up with 27 points off 19 turnovers by the Blazers. ... Nicolas Batum made 1 of 8 shots in the first half and finished 2 for 9 ... Portland rookie center Meyers Leonard was activated but did not play after missing the last 10 games with a sprained ankle. "I want to give him a couple of more days," Terry Stotts said. "I'll probably use him Monday." ... Veteran Sasha Pavlovic moved to the Blazers' inactive list. ... With 3:08 left in the third quarter, Jim Boylan removed Ersan Ilyasova -- who had 27 points and 14 rebounds to that point -- from the game and didn't insert him again except for 14 seconds in the final minute of play. "For defensive purposes, mainly, especially with Sanders out," Boylan explained afterward, adding with a wry smile, "I was the only one who could stop him tonight." ... Boylan was a member of Stotts' staff in Atlanta, but they go further back as teammates on a touring Spain out of college. "I was playing poorly and I remember Jim telling me, 'Quit trying to give them your 'A' moves. Just give them your 'B' moves,'" Stotts said with a laugh. ... Stotts on Boylan: "You knew he was going to be a coach. He saw the game from a coach's perspective. He's an outstanding basketball mind, an X's and O's guy, and he communicates well with players."

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