Bucks 97, Rockets 91
Andrew Bogut had ice wrapped around his right elbow, both knees and his left leg plunged calf deep in a bucket of cold water. Despite the battered appearance, Milwaukee's 7-footer is feeling great again.
''You go to the hole and you see somebody like Bogut, just the presence of being down there, we don't have anybody like that,'' said Kevin Martin, who finished with 23 points for the Yao-less Rockets. ''We'll just take our punches.''
It was Bogut's fourth 20-20 performance of his career and his best rebounding effort since dislocating his right elbow and breaking his hand and wrist in an eye-averting fall last April.
The former No. 1 overall pick in 2005 missed five games this season with back spasms, but since coming back to start this homestand he's averaging 20.8 points and 16 rebounds, with the only loss coming to Miami.
Bogut said the stretch has boosted his outlook moving forward after previously saying he believed it may take him all season to fully recover from last year's injury.
''Definitely, definitely,'' Bogut said. ''My arm is starting to feel better game in and game out, I'm doing much more treatment than I was in preseason and it's responding well. So, getting some confidence in the past four games, four double-doubles, I'm going to just keep working.''
Milwaukee (9-13) was a surprise playoff team last season and finally looks to be rounding into form this one despite averaging an NBA-low 91.5 points. Brandon Jennings scored 19 and John Salmons, who has struggled shooting recently, finished 7 of 12 for 17 points in 42 minutes.
''I think we're starting to get used to winning some games. It was tough for us early,'' Salmons said. ''We definitely didn't think we'd start the season off the way we did. But it is what it is. We've just got to try and get back on track and hopefully if we get on a roll, we can forget what happened in the beginning of the season.''
Bogut missed a dunk, got his own rebound and hit a floater to put Milwaukee up six, then grabbed another offensive rebound on the next possession off Jennings' miss and made it 90-82 with 4:16 left.
''Now that we've got our big man back, we're able to do some things we weren't able to do in the beginning,'' Jennings said.
After Luis Scola fouled Ersan Ilyasova on a 3-point attempt, Ilyasova made all three foul shots to finish with 13 points. Lowry hit consecutive 3s around a free throw by Jennings that made it 94-91 with 23 seconds to play.
Jennings was fouled again and hit one of two free throws, Brad Miller missed a 3-point attempt and Bogut had an easy layup that sealed the win in the final seconds.
''Every rebound seemed to fall in my hands and I made some easy buckets, especially in the third and fourth quarters,'' Bogut said.
Lowry didn't see it the same way.
''He played well. He made some tough shots and got some nice rebounds. He's a big 7-foot guy who can really play. He has a good touch,'' said Lowry, who finished with 11 points.
Scola scored 10 points, 11 under his season average. Courtney Lee added 16.
Salmons gave Milwaukee its first double-digit advantage midway through the third quarter. But Martin scored 11 points in the period and Jermaine Taylor's 9-foot jumper cut Milwaukee's lead to 73-71 heading into the fourth.
But Houston never took the lead in the second half and fell to 8-14.
Houston is 1-1 in a stretch of 10 of 11 games against teams under .500, a perfect opportunity to make up for a slow start without Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming. Both Rockets starters have been out indefinitely since early November.
''We didn't do enough,'' Lowry said. ''We let them get some shots that we shouldn't have. We made some mental mistakes and mistakes that we could have avoided. And they made us pay for it.''
Notes: Bucks F Drew Gooden (left foot) missed his sixth game in the last seven, but hopes to return sometime next week. ... Brooks (left ankle) and Ming (left ankle) have missed a combined 34 games. ... Houston had won 10 of the previous 11 meetings against Milwaukee. ... The Bucks have a two-game Texas trip to San Antonio and Dallas and play 16 of their next 25 on the road.