Playing a matinee game for just the second time this season, it took the Milwaukee Bucks some time to wake up.
They did just in time, riding Monta Ellis' 25 fourth-quarter points, including five 3-pointers, for a 115-109 victory Sunday afternoon over the Orlando Magic at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Ellis finished with 39 points, his fourth quarter output the most by a Bucks player in one quarter this season, after scoring just nine in the first half.
But while the victory snapped a four-game losing streak and kept Milwaukee in the hunt to move up the Eastern Conference playoff pecking order, Bucks coach Jim Boylan was less-than-enthusiastic about his team's effort, or perceived lack thereof, especially on the defensive end.
"We were very, very lucky to win this game," Boylan said. "We can't rely on a tidal wave in the fourth quarter. That happens maybe once in 20 games. We need to play like a serious team."
Orlando shot 50.5 percent for the game and, even while the Bucks surged late, hit 12 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter. The Magic was especially dominant in the paint, outscoring Milwaukee 62-40.
"Our defense is where the problem is at, period," Boylan said. "We don't play any defense. We're not committed to it. We don't play it hard enough. That's how we've been playing."
Along with Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Milwaukee. Brandon Jennings scored 15 points with 14 assists and Sanders had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"We didn't want to lose this game and go five in a row," Ellis said. "We did everything we could to get back in the game and win. It doesn't always play out the way we always picture it, but tonight we just played extra, extra hard down the stretch to get a win."
Aaron Afflalo led Orlando with 24 points while Maurice Harkless added a career-high 23. Nikola Vucevic added 20 points and Jameer Nelson finished with 16 for the Magic. Tobias Harris, who spent his first 1 1/2 seasons with Milwaukee, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds against his former team, fouling out with 2:43 left in the game.
"It felt good," Harris said of returning to Milwaukee. "I would have loved to come out of here with a win, but that's just how it happened. (Ellis) was hot."
Cold shooting put Milwaukee in a hole early. The Bucks made just seven of their first 27 shots and trailed 25-18 after one quarter.
Harkless and Affalo combined for 29 points in the first half as the Magic shot an even 50 percent (24 of 48) from the field and, after going ahead by as many as 13 points, led the Bucks 54-44 at halftime.
The Bucks rattled off seven straight points to open the second half, drawing within three when Jennings' 3-pointer made it a 54-51 game just 90 seconds into the third quarter. Orlando recovered and Harris' 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining put Orlando up 13, but Ellis' reverse layup cut the lead to 81-70 heading into the fourth.
"First three quarters, we had great intensity and defensively put ourselves in a position to get a win," Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Fourth quarter, we came up a little short."
Epke Udoh got Milwaukee within seven on a turnaround hook with 7:40 left but after a defensive three-second violation, Afflalo hit a free throw and a long jumper to put the Magic back up 95-85 with 7:09 to play.
Ellis followed with back-to-back 3-pointers, again cutting the Orlando lead to 97-91 with 6:03 to play. After Harris pushed the Magic back out by nine, Ellis came back with another 3-pointer with 6:04 left. Harris connected on a short jumper and Sanders drew the foul on his layup. After converting the free throw, Milwaukee trailed 101-97 with 4:50 to play.
An Orlando turnover led to a breakaway dunk for Ellis, who hit his fourth from long range with 3:57 on the clock. Milwaukee finally tied the game on Ilyasova's layup with 1:36 left and went ahead for good on Ellis' fifth three of the quarter.
Notes: Milwaukee has won back-to-back games against Orlando after having lost seven in a row ... Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, battling a toe injury, missed his fourth straight game for the Bucks ... Sunday marked the first meeting between the two teams since Feb. 21 trade that sent J.J. Redick to Milwaukee for Harris. The Bucks are 7-5 since the trade with Redick averaging 14.2 points and 2.6 assists in 10 games while Harris has averaged 15.9 points with 7.3 rebounds in 11 games with the Magic, which is 3-10 since the deal ... Sanders has 10 or more rebounds in each of his last four games.