MILWAUKEE – Welcome back, Monta Ellis. Welcome back to the ranks of the NBA’s one-name-only stars.
Ellis – or should we say, Monta – returned to elite-scorer status by lighting up the Atlanta Hawks for 33 points Tuesday in his best performance by far in the two weeks since he’d been traded from Golden State to Milwaukee. And that boosts the Bucks’ chances of returning to the playoffs as they chase the New York Knicks for the East’s No. 8 spot.
A natural-born scorer, Ellis’ game had been rattled by the trade and, given the lack of practice time, by the abrupt drop into the deep end of his new team’s pool. He had missed 50 of his first 76 shots in six games with the Bucks and hadn’t topped 18 points in any of them. He arrived as a 21.9 ppg guy, then played at a 12.2 ppg level, hitting bottom with a 2-of-14 performance at Madison Square Garden Monday.
That prompted a sitdown with Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles. “He’s a little down right now because his shot isn’t going in for him,” Skiles had said before tipoff. “I told him he’s too good a player to get down.”
What the Bucks were hoping was that Ellis would ignite one of these days and stay hot long enough to carry them past the Knicks and into the postseason. Sooner being a better option than later, given the dwindling opportunities to make up ground. And that’s what Ellis did, scoring 10 points in the first quarter to spot Milwaukee to an early lead and then 17 more in the fourth to pull them from the brink of collapse.