MILWAUKEE (AP) -John Salmons is quickly getting into excellent shape.
Salmons scored a season-high 26 points, including a basket with 50.8 seconds left that led the Milwaukee Bucks over the Golden State Warriors 79-72 Saturday night.
Salmons missed the entire preseason with an injured right knee and then started off the season shooting poorly.
``He's getting his game legs,' Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. ``He's getting better everyday. He's looking more comfortable.'
Salmons shot 9 of 17, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
Brandon Jennings added 19 points and Drew Gooden scored 16 as Milwaukee reached .500 for the first time this season.
``It wasn't quite 55,' Jennings said. ``They were playing me so I wouldn't get it and were trapping me on everything.'
In the last meeting at the Bradley Center on Nov. 14, 2009, Jennings had a franchise rookie record with 55 points in the Bucks' 129-125 victory.
Monta Ellis led the Warriors with 24 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome their season-low shooting of 34.1 percent.
``Our defense has been great all year, and we were able to hold a good offensive club to 34 percent,' Salmons said. Milwaukee shot 33.7 percent.
The Warriors made one last run at the Bucks, pulling within 75-72 on Jeff Adrien's hook with 1:31 left. Salmons hit an 8-foot leaner with 50.8 seconds left and then Andrew Bogut blocked Vladimir Radmanovic's shot. Bogut added 17 rebounds.
After struggling for three quarters and being behind by 18, the Warriors opened the fourth with an 11-2 surge that made it 68-62 with 8:25 left to play. Reggie Williams and Radmanovic hit 3s and Charlie Bell, formerly of the Bucks, made a 19-footer off a fast break. After Salmons made two free throws, Ellis hit another 3.
Ellis said the team fought back, but in the end, it was Milwaukee making the big plays to preserve the victory.
``They made the plays at the end, made baskets, got the rebounds and won the game,' he said. ``That's a playoff team. We knew what to expect when we came here, how they were going to play.'
Gooden tipped in a miss by Bogut and Jennings scored on a reverse layup to stop the run.
It was the Warriors' first game since the NBA's board of governors unanimously approved the sale of the team on Friday to the GSW Sports LLC ownership group, led by Joe Lacob and movie producer Peter Guber, for a record $450 million.
Golden State's new owners assumed formal control of the franchise from Chris Cohan, who presided over 15 mostly disappointing seasons for the Bay Area's only pro basketball team.
The Warriors finished the five-game road trip 2-3.
They were without David Lee for a second game after he cut his left elbow when he inadvertently struck New York's Wilson Chandler in the mouth Wednesday. Lee, averaging 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in his first eight games for the Warriors, had successful surgery Friday night to eliminate the infection in the wound.
``His presence is definitely missed on the defensive rebounding and his toughness,' Dorell Wright said. ``We just have to find a way. Guys have to step up and fill his spot.'
The Bucks, whose biggest lead was 18, led 43-30 going into the third quarter behind 15 points from Salmons, including three 3-pointers, and 10 from Jennings. Those two went a combined 10 for 18, but the rest of the team struggled. Milwaukee shot 17 of 46 (37 percent), but made up for the offensive woes by hounding the Warriors into shooting 28.6 percent and scoring their fewest points in the first half this season. Ellis kept them close with 14 points going five for nine from the floor, but had no help as Golden State only made 12 of 42 shots.
``It was a bad start from the beginning of the game,' Ellis said.
Notes: No timetable has been set for the return of the Lee, who was released from the Fremont Surgery Center on Saturday. ... Bucks F Carlos Delfino missed his third game with a neck strain he suffered last Saturday against New Orleans. ... The Warriors' new ownership group is offering 50 percent off food, beverages and all remaining tickets to Monday night's game, the team's first home game since the purchase on Friday. ... The Bucks' reserves shot 1-for-18. ... The Bucks won the rebound battle 58-42. Luc Mbah a Moute grabbed 12, Jennings 11 and Gooden 10.
The Associated Press News Service
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