http://www.jsonline.com/sports/bucks/bucks-vs-denver-nuggets-b99625330z1-359051861.htmlOn Sunday, Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd shuffled his starting lineup, moving Jerryd Bayless and O.J. Mayo in and Michael Carter-Williams and Jabari Parker to the bench.
That shift wasn't a surprise to anyone involved, but sometimes change doesn't come easy.
Carter-Williams especially struggled in just 16 minutes of playing time, but the bench as a whole didn't bring much and Kidd leaned heavily on his starters in a game the Bucks let slip away in the final minutes. After that loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Carter-Williams admitted that if he were the coach he wouldn't have played himself either.
On Monday night, the Bucks' bench unit bounced back in a big way, led by Carter-Williams, in a 92-74 victory over the Denver Nuggets at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
"Mike's energy yesterday in the second half was a positive for us," Kidd said. "Mike did a lot of good things tonight that I thought he carried over from last night. Might have started with the haircut. Not having to score the ball, making the right plays... his energy was high tonight."
Carter-Williams earned 30 minutes of playing time and stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds, three blocks and three steals with just two turnovers to help send the Nuggets to their seventh straight loss.
"I think tonight I had a different attitude coming into the game," Carter-Williams said. "I wanted to go in there and give a good impact. I didn't want to be tentative. Just go out there and play basketball and hopefully good things would happen."
However, those good things didn't happen for Carter-Williams until the second half. In the first two quarters it was Parker, the other player removed from the starting lineup Sunday, who jump-started the team off the bench.
Parker relentlessly attacked the basket after entering the game midway through the first quarter. He finished that period tied for the team-high with 10 points on 4 for 4 shooting and a pair of free throws. He cooled off but finished with a season-high 16 points, second on the team to Greg Monroe's 18 on the night.
"Those two coming off the bench, not just defensively, we're looking for Michael to run that group and we're looking for Jabari to do what he does best and that's score the ball," Kidd said. "He got some great looks. He's a very unselfish player, but he took advantage of opportunities to score the ball."
Carter-Williams took his turn to break out in the second half. He entered with 8:52 left in the third quarter and immediately made an impact with a pair of steals, a layup and two assists in three minutes. Kidd stuck with Carter-Williams' hot hand in the fourth quarter and the Bucks pulled away.
Milwaukee dominated the fourth to turn a close game into a laugher. The Bucks' defense, which allowed its fewest points in a game this season, clamped down as the Bucks outscored the Nuggets, 25-14, in period. Denver shot 37.3% overall while committing 24 turnovers, including 10 Bucks steals, and Milwaukee converted those turnovers into 35 points.
"The last two games, you could see guys understand what we're trying to get done defensively," Kidd said. "We're getting better. Now we go back on the road against a very talented team in San Antonio. We're going to need that kind of defense on the road."
Carter-Williams and Parker meshed well with backup center John Henson, who scored eight points to go with seven rebounds and three blocks. Kidd liked the uptick in tempo with those three playing together and the energy they brought as a unit. One day after collecting a negative plus-minus together, Carter-Williams, Parker and Henson were three definite positives.
"Us three, we had talked and when we go into the game we wanted to make a difference," Carter-Williams said.