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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 22, 2014

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In Sports

Larry Sanders and the Milwaukee Bucks are finding success in the third quarter. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

Bucks bust out after halftime


Jim Boylan, as far as we know, hasn't flipped a buffet table or tossed a Gatorade bucket at a wall during a halftime tirade.

And, as far as we know, Boylan hasn't worked the Milwaukee Bucks into frenzied adrenaline rushes with a bevy of Knute Rockne-level speeches.

Yet in his 16-game tenure as the Bucks head coach, the team storms out of the halftime break on fire – led by point guard Brandon Jennings.

In the 10 games leading up to Scott Skiles' departure the Bucks averaged 21.1 points in the third quarter but scored less than 20 five different times. The team went 4-6 in that stretch.

Since Boylan took over, the Bucks are averaging 25.5 points coming out of intermission – although the team averaged nearly 27 prior to losses in Denver and Utah this week.

"It's an odd thing," Boylan said with a slight smile. "When a team doesn't play well you're like what did we do differently at halftime? For this group of guys, nothing abnormal is happening at halftime. I'm not sprinkling any magic dust on anybody."

The third quarter turnaround began in Boylan's first game in the head chair back on Jan. 8 against Phoenix, when the team broke a 24-game, 26-year losing streak in Phoenix on the strength of a 30-point third quarter.

Including that game, the Bucks have topped 30 points six times in the third quarter and opponents have held them below 20 just three times.

"We just go in and talk about what we need to do and where there are some areas we can shore up," Boylan said, almost shrugging. "The guys just seem to be able to respond and come out in the third quarter and play well."

The catalyst has been Jennings, who has averaged over 20 points and six assists since Boylan took over. The highlight came on Jan. 29 at Detroit when the 23-year-old scored 16 points in just 2 minutes, 20 seconds of play in the third quarter. He scored 30 against the Pistons, bolstered by a 20-point third quarter effort.

Jennings followed that up with a 20-point effort against the Chicago Bulls as the Bucks tried to rally from a halftime deficit.

"He's had some great third quarters," Boylan said of Jennings. "Brandon's usually a guy who motivates himself. In most of those games he didn't perform the way he expects himself to perform in the first half so he comes out in the third quarter with more determination and usually gets something done."

The third quarter surges, for as exciting as they are, haven't really helped the Bucks overcome some stagnant early play however. The team is just [9-14] if they are behind at halftime.

That said, Boylan isn't about to do anything drastically different during future halftimes. After all, the team remains in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and there isn't much to fix when the team storms out of locker room on fire.

"I don't have a definitive answer for that other than to say I'm glad it's happening and hopefully it continues," he said.

Watch Brandon Jennings drop 30 on the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 29, including 16 during a 2-minute stretch in the third quarter, which begins at the 1:24 mark of the video.


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