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Sam Merrill just had his best outing for the Milwaukee Bucks, which included a rare slam dunk

The Milwaukee Bucks rookie and Utah State alum played a career-high minutes and scored a career-high points in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

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Boston Celtics’ Kemba Walker (8) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks’ Sam Merrill during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 26, 2021, in Milwaukee.

Aaron Gash, Associated Press

It was in a losing effort, but former Bountiful High and Utah State star Sam Merrill tallied an NBA career high in minutes played and points scored on Friday night for the Milwaukee Bucks against the Boston Celtics.

Merrill played 20 minutes, including all of the final 14:11 of the contest, and matched his jersey number by scoring 15 points as the Bucks fell to the Celtics 122-114 at home.

Not known for his athleticism, Merrill also had a sweet slam dunk, something a number of people on Twitter — including his wife Kanyan — said they hadn’t seen him do in years.

After playing six minutes in the first half and scoring five points — the slam and a 3-pointer — Merrill was put back in the game with 2:11 to go in the third quarter as the Celtics had opened up their advantage to 17 points after leading by five at halftime.

Merrill wound up playing the rest of the contest and scored 10 points in those final minutes as the Bucks wound up losing by just eight. For the night, Merrill wound up going 6 of 8 from the field, including 3 of 5 from behind the 3-point line, with two rebounds and a steal.

While Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer said he opted to limit his starters’ minutes — none played more than 29 — since they’ve got a game on Saturday against the New York Knicks, he praised Merrill in his postgame press conference, especially for his work on the defensive end of the floor.

“I think Sam just has like a toughness to him, a competitiveness to him, and he knows how important it is,” Budenholzer said. “He’s got to really kind of take every detail on the defensive end and understand it and execute it. There’s a couple plays as I replay Sam’s minutes defensively where he did some good things.

“He’s rebounding, he’s guarding some of these great players. ... I think his defense is improving, and we’re pleased with what he’s doing on both ends of the court.”

For the season, Merrill, the 60th and final pick of the 2020 NBA draft, has appeared in 17 of the Bucks’ 44 games and is averaging 5.7 minutes of playing time in those contests.