MILWAUKEE (AP) — Scott Skiles wanted to insert Larry Sanders into the Milwaukee Bucks' starting lineup for Saturday night's game against the Boston Celtics. The coach relented when the high-energy forward said he preferred a reserve role.
It sure looks as if Sanders knows what's best for him.
He had a career-high 18 points and 16 rebounds to go along with five blocked shots, and the Bucks rallied for a 91-88 victory after the Celtics scored the first 17 points of the game.
"I embrace that role, coming off the bench and trying to provide energy, whether we are down or whether we are up. That's where I plan on staying," Sanders said.
Sanders' performance impressed his coach.
"He was doing everything he does when he plays well," Skiles said. "He was blocking shots, he was running the floor, he was on the boards and got some baskets around the goal. He played really well."
Boston coach Doc Rivers also took notice.
"He was terrific. I thought he changed the game in a lot of ways with his effort," he said. "He blocked a lot of shots and he made a lot of shots, too."
Monta Ellis had 17 points and seven assists for the Bucks, while Ersan Ilyasova added 15 points and five rebounds. Brandon Jennings made a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
"The play wasn't for a 3," Jennings said. "The play was for me to come off a pick with Larry (Sanders). If I had an open lane, of course take it to the hole. But we just moved the ball around and we were able to get an open shot."
Jennings also had praise for Sanders, who had 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a loss to Minnesota on Friday.
"Larry Sanders is on his way to being player of the week if he keeps this up. I'm really excited for him," Jennings said.
Paul Pierce paced the Celtics with 19 points, and Kevin Garnett added 17 points and seven rebounds.
"I thought both teams were going back and forth," Garnett said. "They made some shots and we made some shots. I thought Brandon Jennings' shot was possibly the biggest shot of the night."
Boston played without point guard Rajon Rondo, who served the second of his two-game suspension for his role in a scuffle during a game against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. Courtney Lee, who started in Rondo's place, had 13 points, and Jason Terry finished with 15 points and 11 assists.
Jeff Green and Pierce hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Celtics an 88-85 lead with 1:44 left. Sanders then had a dunk and Jennings drained the crucial 3 to get the lead back for Milwaukee.