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Heartbreak City

February 28, 2013 1:09 am EST

Ellis buzzer-beater stuns Rockets, dooms Houston to 110-107 defeat

HOUSTON - Monta Ellis sent forth a one-legged prayer to the heavens and his plea was answered with a miraculous response. His 27-foot, buzzer-beating heave hit the rim and momentarily flirted with falling outside the cylinder before ultimately settling into the twine to give Milwaukee a stunning 110-107 win over the shell-shocked Rockets.

Mind-boggling as Monta’s shot was, however, there was nothing truly miraculous about the final result. The Rockets failed to hold on to a 17-point first half lead for the second straight game, just as they fell short in attempting to corral several defensive rebounds down the stretch that may well have changed their fate. The turnover bug bit them hard once again, short-circuiting the spectacular start that made it seem as if a Rockets’ rout was inevitable. And as has often been the case this season, Houston’s defense proved unable to deliver the goods on a night when the team’s offense fell short of being elite.

All told, it was a cruel and bitter blow for a club that blew a golden opportunity to gain ground in the Western Conference playoff race. After having three days off following a similarly disappointing defeat to Washington, the Rockets fully expected to bounce back in a big way Wednesday night. Instead they were left to lament their third straight loss at the hands of a sub-.500 team.

“It was a bad loss,” said Chandler Parsons, who tallied 20 points in a losing effort. “There is no way around it. There is no way we should have lost that game. These are the ones you look back on and these are the ones that cost you so you can't do nothing else now. It is what it is so hopefully we learn as a team and get better from it, but that’s a terrible loss.”

For the first seven minutes anyway, it appeared as if it would be anything but. The Rockets ripped Milwaukee’s ninth-ranked defense to shreds, scoring at will on it their way to building a 28-11 lead. At that point, Houston’s shot chart looked like something out of a basketball efficiency textbook, littered as it was with makes either in the restricted area or from the corners. The Rockets repeatedly carved up the Bucks with their exquisite passing and up-tempo style. Houston’s defense was getting stops. Everything was working.

And then, just as suddenly, everything fell apart. When Omer Asik sat for a breather, Houston’s defense rested right along with him. Milwaukee closed the quarter on a 22-8 run, leaving the Rockets with just a 3-point lead to show for their terrific work to start the game. By halftime that advantage had been eradicated entirely along with any remaining hope Houston had of romping its way to an easy victory.

Simply winning, however, was still well within the Rockets’ reach. Asik was an absolute titan in the middle all night long while setting a new career-high with 22 rebounds to go along with his 16 points. Donatas Motiejunas made the most of his first career NBA start by stuffing the stat sheet with 13 points, 7 boards and five assists while racking up a team-high plus-minus of +12. In fact, each of the members of Houston’s starting five delivered positive contributions. Where the Rockets’ were overwhelmed, however, was in the category of bench play where Milwaukee’s reserves owned a massive 42-23 advantage.

Nonetheless, Houston still had a 6-point lead to its credit with three minutes left in the game. For whatever faults the team had displayed up to that critical juncture, the Rockets remained in control. The game was theirs for the taking. Five Milwaukee offensive rebounds and one Monta Ellis miracle later, however, nothing remained for Houston but heartache and regret.

“We got complacent and they crawled back into the game and they won,” said a sullen Jeremy Lin. “This one hurts. This one hurts what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish. That’s two bad losses in a row. We’ve just got to get out of this in the next two days.”

HOUSTON HEAD COACH KEVIN McHALE

(On offensive rebounds) “The ball got tipped around and they (Bucks) got it. You have to come up with those. They (Bucks) got a couple of opportunities. The ball got tipped. It was a scramble at that point. Everybody's got to try to come back and get one.”

(On the play after the first seven minutes of the 1st quarter) “We played very, very well. We had defensive stops and then we didn't have much of a flow. Not great defense. They made some shots. Monta Ellis got hot for a little while. Their bench came in. (J.J.) Redick and (Mike) Dunleavy and (John) Henson, he (Henson) only played twelve minutes but he had 12 points.”

(On defense against Monta Ellis) “Our defense was not very good tonight.”

(On the pick-and-roll defense) “We didn't come up from the weak side. We got jammed up on our guy again and our guy made a few shots and we did the same thing that we do a lot of times. We've got to get better. This guy has got to get off this guy and take the roll guy. We just got back to work tomorrow and look at the stuff. We just have to hit the hammer on the nail one more time. We go over the same thing everyday. It is just pick and roll coverage and pin down coverage and all the same stuff and we'll do it all again tomorrow.”

(On Donatas Motiejunas) “I thought D-Mo played well.”

(On Thomas Robinson's contributions) “He's had two practices. We're going to have to get a little bit more accustomed to playing everybody in new groups.”

 JAMES HARDEN

(On the feeling of losing) “I think we let two games get away. At home, up 6 (points), we got to figure out a way to finish that game out. A couple of mental mistakes, small things.”

(On the defensive inconsistency after starting the game well) “We got away from what we were doing. We got up 18 (points) in that 1st quarter. We were trying to do too much, forcing shots. We were turning the ball over and they (Bucks) were getting easy buckets and that got them into the game.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

(On the difficulty of the loss) “It was a bad loss. There is no way around it. There is no way we should have lost that game. These are the ones you look back on and these are the ones that cost you so you can't do nothing else now. It is what it is so hopefully we learn as a team and get better from it, but that’s a terrible loss.”

(On losing the 17-point lead and it contributing to the loss) “It was huge getting a big lead like that. You got to hold it and maintain it, at least, and not give it up. We've got to keep our foot on the pedal and build on that and we didn't do that. I think we got complacent. We stopped running our offense. Defense was not very good tonight. Guys should get back, cut, weren't blocking out, little things like that. So, bad game overall.”

JEREMY LIN

(On what went wrong) “Down the stretch, just rebounding and staying on top of where our guys are and things like that, defensive lapses.”

(On whether or not Milwaukee changed their defense which made it difficult for the Rockets to execute offensively) “We just didn't have the same space and pace that we had in the beginning. And we also didn't get the stops that we were getting at the beginning. We got complacent and they crawled back into the game and they won.”

This one hurts. This one hurts what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish. That’s two bad losses in a row. We’ve just got to get out of this in the next two days.

DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS

(On what he feels he can take away from his first start) “We have to play more as a team, more aggressive, I think, and everything will change. We started really good. We started with aggressive defense with a lot of running and fast break points, easy points. Usually the team that scores the most easy points wins the game. That's why we had the lead at the start.”

MILWAUKEE BUCKS COACH JIM BOYLAN

(On the ending) “That was a heck of an ending. Our guys battled the whole way and sometimes the basketball gods shine down on you and tonight was our night. Great shot by Monta (Ellis), a great rebound by Ersan (Ilyasova). We had a lot of activity around the glass to end the game as we kept the ball alive and gave us a couple of possessions and it gave us the last shot. Lucky for us it went in.”

(On the play of the final shot) “We were going to take the last shot of the game after the rebound and we were going to go to overtime or win it. It worked out just perfect. That’s exactly the way I drew it up (laughter), from beginning to end. I could’ve used the timeout but I didn’t want to let Houston’s defense get set. Anything could’ve gone wrong on an inbound, so we were in position and just tried to get the last shot. Brandon (Jennings) kind of stumbled and Monta (Ellis) was alert and came to help him and bailed him out right there. He just let him go, spun around, spun out, and then went back in.”

(On the win) “It’s huge for us. We’re in the 8th spot and trying to climb up to 7th and then to 6th or wherever we can get. We have some teams behind us that are playing good right now. It was great to pull out two games in Texas. When you look at the schedule, you would probably be happy with a split but to be able to go 2-0 after having a rough time at home losing some close games, for us to win these two games is really big for us.”

MONTA ELLIS

(On the final shot) “Thank God it went in. That’s all I can say. We played hard, both teams played hard, we just stuck with it and it was just one of those things where we had to force a shot. Thank God it went in. I just threw it up and thank God it went in”

(On his recent play) “We have to do something and I want to do whatever I can to help my team win. We want to hold the 8th spot so we can make the playoffs. It’s not just me, it’s my teammates catching the ball, blocking shots, rebounding and also setting good screens for me and they’re rolling to the basket and I finding them. They’re making it much easier for me in coming off the pick and roll and it softens up the defense for me to get wherever I need to against the defense. I just make the right play at the right time.

BRANDON JENNINGS

(On the final play) “I didn’t have anything, so I kicked it out to Monta (Ellis) and he hit a one-legged, 3-point shot for the win.”

(On the two wins in Texas) “They were really big wins. Considering the fact we lost three games in a row before the All Star break and now to get these two wins gives us some room when we come home to play Toronto.”

(On Monta Ellis’ play) “He’s been playing really well for us. He’s really been active on both ends and he’s one of the reasons we’ve been successful.”

MIKE DUNLEAVY

(On the game) “We always know in Houston that it’s going to be a tough game so for us to get this win and go 2-0 in Texas is a nice trip for us. Down six with a couple of minutes left, we just hung in there. We can lose some games in close situations and you become more resilient and you stick with it a little more and this was real nice to come back and get this win.”

(On Monta Ellis’ final shot) “Oh yeah, some are real close but that one you could tell with a naked eye. I just wanted to get out of here and go back home for the real cold weather.”

(On the bench play) “That’s something we’ve been pretty good with throughout the season and then we had a bit of a drop off but now with picking up J.J. (Redick), that will be a nice plus for us. We expect our bench to come out and produce every night. We have some guys that are pretty consistent and reliable. It should be a strength of ours.”

NOTES

Monta Ellis hit a 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Bucks to a 110-107 win over the Rockets tonight, which snapped Houston’s five-game home winning streak. It also marked the only loss for the Rockets at Toyota Center in the month of Feb. 2013.

Houston has now dropped consecutive games after building 17-point leads in the first half. The Rockets, who were up by as much as 17 points in the first quarter tonight, also gave up a 17-point, first-half lead in a 105-103 loss at Washington (2/23/13). It marks the first time in team history that the Rockets have lost two straight games in which they led by at least 17 points.

The Rockets actually outscored the Bucks by a 70-44 (+26) count in the paint tonight. The last time Houston scored 70-plus points in paint was even 70 vs. Oklahoma City (1/12/11).

Houston was just 7-of-23 (.304) from beyond the arc tonight. Milwaukee also held the Mavericks to just one 3-point field goal (.059, 1-17 3FG) last night at Dallas (2/26/13).

Houston’s starting five have all scored 10-plus points in the same game 10 times this season.

James Harden finished with 25 points (8-18 FG, 7-10 FT), seven assists and four steals tonight. Harden has extended his career single-season best of 20-point games to 48.

Omer Asik posted 16 points (7-12 FG) and a career-high 22 rebounds tonight, marking the first 20-rebound game by a Rockets player since Luis Scola (21) at Minnesota (3/6/10). Asik actually picked up a double-double by halftime, recording 10 points (5-8 FG) and 10 boards over the opening two quarters. It marked the second time this season for Asik to register a double-double before the break. He also had 10 points and 10 boards by halftime vs. Denver (11/7/12).

Chandler Parsons netted another 20 points (9-17 FG, 2-5 3FG) tonight. Parsons also registered 24 points (9-15 FG, 5-9 3FG) at Washington (2/23/13). It is the second time in his career (both this season) to record 20-point performances in two consecutive games. Parsons previously had 21 points (8-13 FG, 3-7 3FG) at Denver (1/30/13) and added 24 points (9-17 FG, 3-6 3FG) vs. Charlotte (2/2/13).

Donatas Motiejunas registered his first career start tonight, matching his career high with 13 points (4-9 FG, 4-4) to go along with career bests of seven rebounds and five assists.

Monta Ellis collected a game-high 27 points (9-24 FG, 2-6 3FG, 7-11 FT), 13 assists, six boards and six steals tonight. Ellis, who also swiped six steals last night at Dallas (2/26/13), now has a league-leading eight games this season with 5-plus steals.

Ersan Ilyasova recorded 20 points (8-13 FG, 3-3 FT) and 10 rebounds tonight, which marked his ninth double-double of the season.

Mike Dunleavy totaled 16 points (6-11 FG, 2-5 3FG) and six rebounds tonight, helping the Bucks bench outscore the Rockets reserves by a 42-23 margin tonight.