Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions are the unlikely new stars of the decidedly different Bucks.
Villanueva scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and
Sessions had 26 points and seven assists to give Milwaukee a
124-112 victory over Houston on Monday night that snapped an
eight-game losing streak against the Rockets.
"We're coming in night in and night out sticking with the game
plan, trying to defend well and let the offense come to us," said
Sessions, who had a career-high 44 points Saturday night in an
overtime loss to Detroit. "That's what we're both doing and we're
able to score our points."
The pair combined for 77 points in a loss to the Pistons, but
played even better against Houston in a dominant performance by the
Bucks, who had lost two straight overall and had a four-year skid
Yao Ming finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting and Tracy
McGrady had three points on 1-of-9 shooting. Yao also had 10
rebounds, but was plagued by early foul trouble and only played 19
minutes with the game out of reach.
"We made them uncomfortable," Villanueva said. "Get them out
of the game, get them in foul trouble, put them on drag screens,
make them defend and it worked to perfection. We kept them out of
Said McGrady: "Right now, we're just a team that doesn't know
how to play defense."
The Bucks exposed it, too, shooting 52 percent from the field
even without top scoring threats Michael Redd (knee), Andrew Bogut
(back) and Luke Ridnour (thumb). Richard Jefferson added 25 points,
reserve Charlie Bell had 21 and Keith Bogans 13 as Milwaukee
(25-29) moved within one win of its season total last year.
"It really shows the tremendous improvement this team has made
last year to this year, almost having the same amount of wins at
the All-Star break as we had last year. Mike missed pretty much
half the games, Andrew has missed a lot, now we've lost Luke,"
said Bell, who hit his first seven shots. "It just really shows
the will and the heart of this team with all the injuries we've
had, guys are still going out there playing hard and we're not
giving up on this season."
Houston had won three of the previous four, but gave up at least
104 points in its fifth straight road game. Aaron Brooks scored a
career-high 23 points, Luis Scola and Ron Artest had 20 points
apiece and Carl Landry added 16 for the Rockets.
"I wish it were under different circumstances," said Brooks,
who wasn't aware of his new mark until after the game.
Rockets coach Rick Adelman declined to talk about Yao and
McGrady's efforts, saying the whole team was disappointing.
"We go home and play with more energy, with more resolve and
more of an urgency and then we come out here knowing that teams are
going to play better at home and we don't come out with the
effort," Adelman said. "They shot it very well. They passed the
ball well. They had 31 assists. They did everything they wanted to
Midway through the third quarter, Villanueva sparked a 14-0 run
by contributing 10 points and the Bucks showed first-year coach
Scott Skiles their improving effort on defense this year.
Sessions, who has taken over at point guard for Ridnour,
stripped Rafer Alston and converted a layup. Villanueva hit
back-to-back 3-pointers off assists from Jefferson to make it
87-65. Milwaukee was never threatened from that point.
The valuable minutes both Sessions and Villanueva are playing
could pay off even if the Bucks fall short of the postseason. Both
are restricted free agents at the end of the year and Milwaukee's
financial situation is shaky because the team doesn't want to pay a
"The opportunity is there. There's a chance to play a lot of
big minutes, just taking advantage of the opportunity and being
consistent, too," Villanueva said. "It goes for all the guys."
Notes: Milwaukee signed veteran G Eddie Gill to a 10-day contract
Monday. Gill played eight minutes and had two points and four
assists. ... The Bucks previously beat Houston 115-87 on Dec. 28,
2004, in Milwaukee. ... Milwaukee has not lost consecutive home
games this season. ... McGrady had scored 20 or more points against
the Bucks in 19 straight games and averaged 32.1 points per game
until Skiles took over. This season, McGrady is 4-of-19 for 10
points in two games.