Bobcats Beat Bucks

Milwaukee 92, New York 101

MILWAUKEE (AP) Gary Neal liked returning to Milwaukee much better than he enjoyed playing there.

Kemba Walker scored 21 points and Al Jefferson added 16 of his 20 in the second half to help the Charlotte Bobcats beat the Bucks 101-92 on Sunday for their fourth straight victory.

Neal added 18 in his return to Milwaukee after the Bucks traded him to Charlotte last month. Gerald Henderson scored 14 as the Bobcats matched their longest winning streak of the season, set Feb. 18-22.

With the victory, the Bobcats (33-34) are 1 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The two face each other Wednesday in Brooklyn and then seven days later in Charlotte.

After a quiet first half, Neal got it going in the second and scored 10 points in a strong fourth quarter.

"In the first half I got into a little bit of foul trouble, so my minutes were kind of cut short because of that," Neal said. "I credit my teammates. They were able to find me and kind of make the game easier for me."

Neal and Luke Ridnour faced their former teammates for the first time since being traded by the Bucks last month.

Milwaukee sent Neal and Ridnour to Charlotte on Feb. 20 for Adrien and Ramon Sessions. Neal complained about his role with the Bucks and clashed with coach Larry Drew and center Larry Sanders, who is out indefinitely with a fractured orbital bone.

Neal got into a heated exchange with Sanders in the Bucks' locker room after the 116-100 loss to the Suns in Phoenix on Jan. 4. Then Neal, in his fourth season in the NBA, fell out of the rotation when Drew played younger players.

"Since I've been in Charlotte, I have been playing well," Neal said. "I have been efficient and effective. Hopefully, I will be able to keep that up."

He shot 5 of 6 and made all six free throw attempts.

"I am a Bobcat now," Neal said. "So, I am focused and concentrating on my house right now. That is in Charlotte. We finished the game well. We executed the last three minutes and we were able to come away with the win. An important win for us."

Neal scored seven the Bobcats' first 12 points to start the fourth quarter.

After Josh McRoberts hit a 3-pointer, Neal added a jumper that gave Charlotte an 88-85 lead. Khris Middleton answered with a basket to pull Milwaukee within one, but Jefferson scored on a hook shot and layup to end any chance of the Bucks' win.

Brandon Knight, who scored 21 points for the Bucks, wasn't surprised by what Neal or the Bobcats did.

"He did what he does," Knight said. "He made shots. Not just him, but their entire team. They did a great job executing, not just Gary. Gary did his job today."

After the Bucks looked as if they would bounce back from their 115-94 loss to the Knicks in New York on Saturday afternoon, they faded when it mattered the most.

"A little bit of lack of effort," Knight said of what hurt the team in the fourth after playing well enough to win in the first three quarters. "I say we had a lot more effort today than yesterday, but the fourth quarter you got to have some heart. We lacked that today in the fourth quarter. They were just a better team."

Neal continues to rebound from a one-game trip to the bench.

After Neal scored 19 points in a 105-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford benched him in Wednesday's 98-85 win at Washington for an "internal team matter." Neal scored 19 in the 105-93 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

Ramon Sessions scored 18 points, the most since joining the Bucks. Jeff Adrien and John Henson each had 12, but it wasn't enough to stop the Bobcats from their first sweep of a season series from the Bucks.

The sparse crowd booed when Neal entered the game in the first quarter and when he made two free throws in the second.

Notes: Bucks F Ersan Ilyasova missed the game due to a sore right ankle.

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NOTES

Charlotte has now won five consecutive games against the Bucks, including all four matchups in 2013-14. This is the first time in 10 seasons of head-to-head play in which Charlotte has swept Milwaukee, and the five game streak is the longest for the Bobcats in the all-time series.

At 33-34, Charlotte now sits just 1.5 games behind Brooklyn for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Nets and Bobcats will square off in Brooklyn on Wednesday and in Charlotte the following Wednesday.

After going 1-for-1 from beyond the arc today, Nate Wolters is now shooting 15-for-32 (.469) from three since Feb. 1. Wolters had gone 3-of-29 (.103) from three prior to February.

Ramon Sessions’ 18 points are his high in a Bucks uniform this season (previously 16 four times, most recently on March 10 vs. Orlando). His season high of 23 came for Charlotte on Jan. 20 vs. Toronto.

Jeff Adrien (12 points) has now scored in double figures in each of his last four games, continuing his career-best streak.

Kemba Walker (21 points) recorded his 24th game of the season with 20+ points. Charlotte is now 16-8 in those games this season.

With 20 points and seven rebounds, Al Jefferson saw his streak of games with 25+ points and 10+ rebounds come to an end at three. It was the fourth time in his career that Jefferson has posted three straight 25/10 games, but he’s never done so in four straight outings.

For the second time this season, the Bucks attempted over 20 more shots than their opponent after doing so seven times last season (yet Milwaukee is just 2-7 through those games). This afternoon, Milwaukee attempted 89 shots to Charlotte’s 68.

QUOTES

Head Coach Larry Drew

(On today’s performance…)

“Looking back at the game, defensively I thought there was a difference tonight. Coming in at halftime, being up about four points and the other team is still shooting at 58 percent. That is not a good sign at all. Our message at the start of the game was to get some defensive stops and have some consistency defensively, but we were not able to defend this team tonight. They shot close to 58 percent for the game, and you’re not going to put yourself in a position to win many games allowing a team to shoot like that.”

(On shots not falling for the Bucks…)
“We missed some shots. Eventually the shots did stop dropping, but from a defensive standpoint they made shots and we couldn’t stop them. Defense was a letdown. I actually thought that we played pretty good defense the first half until I saw the stat sheet. In order to put yourself in a better position you have to make stops.”

(On the key to Charlotte’s defense…)

“They are very athletic. You look at their team and [Gerald] Henderson is an athletic guy, same with [Michael Kidd-] Gilchrist. [Josh] McRoberts is much more mobile than you would think. Also, I think that Kemba [Walker] is an underrated player. When you think of having to defend a pick-and-roll, he does a good job with it. I think that one of Charlotte’s strengths defensively is their athleticism.”

Guard Brandon Knight

(On the loss…)

“We just didn’t get stops. We struggled to get stops in the fourth quarter. I think they were able to stretch the lead out. We also didn’t make shots, but I mean you’ve got to give yourself a chance to win by getting consecutive stops. I think they scored maybe four out of their last five possessions, so it’s tough to win games in the fourth quarter, in the last four minutes, if you don’t get stops.”

(On Charlotte’s high shooting percentage…)

“We knew that at halftime, and our goal was to come out and get stops. It hurt us yesterday a lot, and it showed a lot in today’s fourth quarter.”

Forward Jeff Adrien

(On the fourth quarter…)

“We’re right there in these games. We’ve just got to learn how to finish them. Just got to make those plays at the end of the game. The game’s not won in the first or second quarters, it’s really won in the fourth.”

(On playing against his former team…)

“It was definitely strange at first, but at the end of the day it’s basketball. You’ve got to play. It’s definitely fun to play against them. They’re a good team. They’re playing very well.”

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