HOUSTON -- By any definition, Monta Ellis' final shot was a wing and a prayer.
One night after rallying to victory in Dallas, the Milwaukee Bucks did so again thanks largely to Ellis' miraculous buzzer-beater, swiping a 110-107 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
Ellis capped his 27-point, 13-assist, six-steal effort by taking a desperate pass from Brandon Jennings and heaving a 27-footer that rattled and rolled around the rim before finally dropping in as the buzzer sounded.
"I just threw it up," Ellis said. "Thank God it went it.
"I was ready for it (the pass) the whole time. Even if we didn't get a shot off, we were going into overtime. I didn't want to go into overtime. I was kind of winded."
While Ellis logged a game-high 44 minutes, it was Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova who breathed life into Milwaukee (28-28) with a rebound of Ellis' errant 18-foot jumper to help Milwaukee maintain possession. Rockets guard Jeremy Lin cornered Jennings and forced the pass to Ellis, whose sprawling shot capped the comeback from a 17-point deficit.
James Harden, whose driving layup with 34.7 seconds left pulled the Rockets (31-28) even at 107, paced Houston with 25 points and seven assists. Forward Chandler Parsons added 20 points while Houston center Omer Asik paired 16 points with a career-high 22 rebounds.
Ilyasova scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Milwaukee while Mike Dunleavy added 16 points and six rebounds off the bench. The Bucks' closing heroics were made possible by their first-quarter rally, an impressive feat coming off a grueling game the night before.
"We knew that they were fresh and we were concerned about that after playing a tough game last night in Dallas," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "We were able to respond. They jumped on us a little bit, but we've had that happen before where teams have jumped on us and we fight our way back. We've done that all year, so it wasn't a shock when it happened."
The sluggishness of an unsightly second quarter yielded to riveting play in the fourth. Neither team led by more than five until the Rockets reeled off nine consecutive points capped by an improbable Asik alley-oop for a 105-99 lead with 3:06 left to play. Milwaukee responded quickly, starting with an Ilyasova 3-point play out of a timeout.
Dunleavy followed with a 3-pointer before Bucks center Larry Sanders delivered a block trailing the transitioning Harden on one end before tipping in Ellis' missed jumper for a 107-105 lead with 45.3 seconds left.
For Houston, Sanders' board work was a harbinger of things to come.
"The ball got tipped around and they got it," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of the final sequence. "You have to come up with those."
Having last played Saturday night in Washington, a game in which they also blew a 17-point lead before falling to the Wizards, the Rockets appeared the fresher of the two teams from the opening tip. They connected on 12 of their first 13 shots, tallying 10 assists in the process.
Contributions came from every corner, with standbys like Harden and Parsons facilitating as frequently as Donatas Motiejunas and Thomas Robinson, newcomers to their respective roles.
After Parsons assisted Asik on an alley-oop dunk, the Rockets led 28-11 with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter. Following a timeout, it was the Bucks who were suddenly revitalized, closing the period with a 22-8 burst spurred by their commitment to defense and transition scoring.
The Rockets could not capitalize on Milwaukee playing its second game in two nights. When Houston forged a working margin the Bucks responded.
"(When) we get a big lead like that, we've got to hold it or maintain it at least, not give it up," Parsons said. "We've got to keep our foot on the pedal and build on that. We didn't do that. I think we got complacent."
NOTES: Even with their satisfying win at Dallas on Tuesday, the Bucks remain a work in progress because they acquired guard J.J. Redick at the trade deadline. How Redick blends most efficiently with the backcourt tandem of Ellis and Jennings, particularly down the stretch of tight games, is unclear. "The thing is we have options," Boylan said. "As the coach, you've got to look at what you have and try to figure out what gives you the best chance to win the game. If somebody has it going out there or there's a combination that has it going out there, then that's who you need to roll with." ... The addition of rookie forward/center Motiejunas to the starting lineup could alter the Rockets' rotation permanently during their playoff push. With undeniable practice effort, Motiejunas forced his way into the mix. How he adjusts to starting is the next challenge. "His time is here," McHale said. "I told him yesterday that all that work is going to pay off."