The forecast in Milwaukee calls for abundant sunshine and Monta Ellis.
Although: You can never really predict the weather or this shooting guard.
One week ago, he was not as hot as the Heat. But he was warm. In fact, Game 1 marked the best game of the season for Ellis against Miami. That includes seven games overall: four regular season games before Game 1 and two more postseason games after Game 1.
Overall, it has been a struggle against the Heat. But he started the playoffs with a pretty strong performance, making 10-19 from the field for 22 points along with four rebounds, three assists, four steals, and two turnovers.
Game 1 was on a Sunday. Coincidentally or not, Ellis has played top-shelf basketball on Sundays all season long for the Bucks.
In six regular season Sunday games, Ellis played like this: 26.5 points, 5.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 50.4 FG%, 46.2 3PT%, 89.2 FT%. These are wild, happy numbers.
Only because this is so weird and so pleasant and we need something to feel good and optimistic about going into Game 4 with the Bucks down 3-0 in the series, let us take a quick journey through Sunday Ellis this season.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
27 points (8-13 FG, 8-9 FT), 5 assists, 3 steals
It all started in Brooklyn, where Ellis helped the Bucks cruise to a 97-88 win over the Nets. He knocked in a 12-foot jumper on his first shot for the team's first points of the night. And he stayed aggressive throughout the game, attempting just one three-pointer and getting to the line nine times. This was an efficient offensive evening and defensive evening, as Ellis and backcourt mate Brandon Jennings combined for 50 points on 32 shots compared to Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, who combined for 22 points on 27 shots.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
30 points (12-22 FG, 3-7 3PT), 9 assists, 4 rebounds
The final Sunday of 2012 treated Ellis quite nicely. Though his team did not fare so well. Ellis scorched the Pistons for 30 points, but he was the only Milwaukee starter to even manage double-figures in scoring. Actually, he outscored the other four starters combined, 30-22. And he was passing too. Ellis had more than twice as many assists as any other teammate. Unfortunately, the Bucks fell 96-94 in Detroit to the Pistons.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
17 points (7-17 FG), 3 assists, 1 steal
Here is the only real scuffed mark on his Sunday record, and even this game was not such a bad one for Ellis. Especially considering he finished with a +6 differential and the Bucks scored a decisive 107-96 win in Toronto over a Raptors team that was on its finest run of the season, having won 10 of 13.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
29 points (9-24 FG, 11-12 FT), 9 assists, 4 rebounds
An odd game, you might recall. With frontcourt starters Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova out, the shorthanded Bucks needed a big night from someone on the perimeter. The team had won five of its last six, and this was the third and final game of a three-game west coast road swing. Ellis struggled from the field, but he turned in a productive game anyway by making a season-high 11-12 free throws. On the team's final offensive possession of the game, with the Bucks up 113-112, Ellis drew a foul and sank both free throws. They won 115-112. And, those nine assists helped as well.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
39 points (13-22 FG, 5-6 3PT, 8-8 FT), 5 assists, 6 rebounds
Happy St. Patrick's Day. Ellis netted 25 points in the fourth quarter, and they were all pretty ridiculous. "I didn't think about it. I just shot the ball." That worked well. Ellis made 5-6 three pointers in the fourth quarter alone. He brought the team back from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to a 115-109 win. Here are 25 fun numbers from that game.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
20 points (8-15 FG, 3-4 3PT), 4 assists, 4 rebounds
The final score was a downer, 104-99 in favor of the Hawks. But Ellis played a fine game, exactly one week after his 25-point fourth quarter burst against the Magic. Once again, the fourth quarter was the hottest quarter for Ellis, who scored 11 points in less than two minutes – including three straight three-pointers – to give the Bucks a short-lived 97-92 lead.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
22 points (10-19 FG), 4 rebounds, 4 steals
Back to Game 1. Ellis struggled at both the free throw line (1-6) and on threes (1-6), but his mid-range jumper (6-8) was on all the way, and he actively tried to spearhead an offense that had major problems finding an open look against the swarming Heat defense.
Heat and Cold
While Ellis has found success on Sundays with baffling consistency and brilliance, the same does not hold true for his efforts against the Heat. Rather, his numbers across the board are way, way down against the Heat.
In four regular season games against Miami, Ellis scored 8, 9, 14, and 7 points respectively. The shooting percentages (30.2 % overall) were no prettier. And the struggles have carried over to the postseason, with the exception of Game 1. He made just four field goals and scored 14 points in Game 2 and Game 3 – combined.
The phrase "must-win" is thrown around a lot. Too much. Game 4 is Sunday in Milwaukee against the Heat. And it is a must-win. But against a team that has lost two games in nearly three months, is it even possible?
On Sunday, maybe all you will need to do is look up to find the answer. But not too far up. Just six feet and three inches above the court on 4th Street, where Monta Ellis shoots for abundant sunshine.