John Salmons carries scoring load in loss

John Salmons did the heavy lifting for the Bucks on Wednesday night, scoring a season-high 33 points against the Denver Nuggets.

The Bucks shooting guard engaged in a scoring duel with Denver's Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 38 points in the Nuggets' 94-87 victory.
But again the Bucks had their chances in the fourth quarter only to go cold at the finish. They missed their last 10 shots and didn't score a basket after Salmons scored on a reverse move with 4:23 remaining.

And they were outscored, 11-1, in the last 4 minutes.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles pointed out that Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings combined to go 2 for 18 "and we were still right there and have a chance to win."

Corey Maggette had a straight-on look at an open three-pointer with 52 seconds left and the Bucks trailing, 90-87. But Maggette missed and the Bucks finished a dismal 3 of 23 from three-point distance (13%).

"It was a good look," Maggette said. "It was one of those nights. That particular play was in and out. Those are the ones that really burn you."

Kenyon Martin came up with two huge blocks on the Bucks' next possession and Chauncey Billups clinched the victory with four free throws in the final 16 seconds. Martin finished with an eye-popping stat line of 11 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 blocked shots.

The Bucks played without power forward Ersan Ilyasova, out with a right eye contusion, and backup point guard Keyon Dooling, who had left knee soreness.

Salmons hit 13 of 23 shots while Anthony sank 16 of 30, including 10 of 15 shots in the first half.

Carlos Delfino opened the game guarding Anthony and Skiles put Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the Denver star late in the third quarter, when Anthony already had scored 30 points.

"We were trying to wait for a decent time," Skiles said. "We didn't want Luc on him the whole game. Carmelo has a tendency to get used to whoever is guarding him, no matter how good they are defensively.

"Luc did a very nice job on him. Carmelo is a great player and he still scored his points. We had that nice run at the end of the third to get back in the game. That lineup played well out there."

Skiles used a lineup featuring point guard Earl Boykins, Mbah a Moute, Bogut, Salmons and Maggette as the Bucks went on a 14-3 run to close the quarter and tie the game at 71. Boykins and Maggette entered with 3:30 left and Denver leading, 68-57.

"We fell behind and were dragging a little bit," Skiles said. "I put those guys in the game and we were able to quickly get right back into the game."

Jennings was 1 for 11 from the field and 0 for 6 from the three-point line and finished with four points. Bogut was 1 for 7 and had three points but grabbed 20 rebounds.

Nuggets coach George Karl was happy with how the Denver defense locked down the Bucks in the final minutes.

"We don't win a lot of games with our defense but tonight was kind of a gutty, get-after-it game," Karl said.

Billups, who added 20 points and a huge three-pointer with 2:53 left to give Denver the lead for good, also credited the defense.

"Salmons was hurting us. We went to trapping him hard, trying to make somebody else make a play," Billups said. "Nobody really could."
The Bucks scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and shot 6 of 22 from the field (27.3%).

Milwaukee (21-34) finished with eight losses in the 10 games preceding the all-star break, making a playoff run extremely difficult. The Bucks will have just 27 games remaining when they resume play Tuesday night against Minnesota.

"There's no big mystery what we need to do to get ourselves in some sort of decent shape," Skiles said. "At some point we've got to win six out of seven, eight out of 10.

"At some point, that has to be done. And it's more than likely right now. Without feeling pressure, we've got to put some pressure on ourselves to go out there and get these wins. Guys played hard again tonight. No complaints there. We've just got to play better."

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