HOUSTON — A week ago nobody could figure out the Bucks. It seemed they had spent most of trade deadline day trying to trade Monta Ellis to Atlanta for Josh Smith and, when that failed, added another guard in J.J. Redick.
Can you spell “crowded backcourt?” Redick joined Ellis and Brandon Jennings in what looked like the kind of traffic jam that could tie up an intersection, let alone a team trying to hang on in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“I don’t know what Milwaukee is doing,” Charles Barkley said on TNT. “They are just trying to cover the market on guards.”
The rest of the pundit class joined in a collective scratching of heads.
On Wednesday night, the Rockets were left scratching their heads when Jennings almost held onto the ball a half-tick too long, finally got it to Ellis and he put up a running, one-legged, one-armed turnaround that practically licked all of the paint off the rim before falling in to give the Bucks a 110-107 win.
It was the second time in two nights that Ellis played key role down the stretch. Coach Jim Boylan had sat Jennings for the final 3:32 on Tuesday night in Dallas and used Ellis to close out a win in Dallas. He finished with 22 points, nine assists and six steals against the Mavs. In Houston, Ellis racked up 27 points, 13 assists and six steals.
“I play basketball. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do,” Ellis said in Dallas.
“I just got the shot off and got out of there,” Ellis said in Houston.
Nothing really has changed about Ellis’ game since the trade deadline. He’s still the most indiscriminate shooter in the league, hitting just 9 of his 24 shots against the Rockets, and that horn-beating prayer truthfully wasn’t much of a stretch from some of the others he’s hoisted along the way.
The Bucks lost their first three games coming out of the All-Star break by a combined six points, including one overtime defeat. But now they’ve taken a mini-sweep through Texas because the player they tried to trade away and who could opt out of his contract next summer, has given them the kind of sudden charge that usually comes from grabbing onto a high voltage wire.
So Ellis can bolt from Milwaukee if he wants; Redick might just be a short-term rental until he becomes a free agent in July; the starting point guard Jennings has got to wonder if he’ll watch end of any more games from the bench as the backcourt resembles a crowded elevator at quitting time. Oh, and the question remains how the deadline deal really made the Bucks any more capable of knocking off Miami or Indiana in the first round of the playoffs.
While everyone else is trying to figure out the strategy of the front office, all the Bucks are trying to do is win enough games to maybe catch Boston for the No. 7 seed.
Shocked? Only the guy who provided the electricity isn’t.
As the referees gathered ’round a TV monitor to review the final shot and some of his celebrating teammates returned to the floor to wait for an official ruling, Ellis was out the tunnel and gone without checking.
“I didn’t need to,” he said. “The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. There was no need for me to come back out … I didn’t need [any] explanation.”
Despite all the coast-to-coast puzzlement at the trade deadline, apparently neither do the Bucks.