Finally, the Milwaukee Bucks are getting a chance to prove their surge hasn’t been a fluke.
With an opportunity to win seven straight road games for the first time in 25 years, the Bucks face their toughest opponent in nearly a month as they visit the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night.
Six straight victories overall have helped Milwaukee (30-28) move into seventh in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind sixth-place Chicago and 1 1/2 in back of fifth-place Toronto. The Bucks are trying to win seven straight for the first time since an eight-game run in January 2002.
Milwaukee’s road success has been even more surprising. A victory over the Hawks (36-21) would give the Bucks their first seven-game road winning streak since the 1984-1985 season.
Milwaukee, though, has hardly played elite competition during either of its streaks having faced no team currently in the top six in the East until now— Atlanta is fourth. This will be the Bucks’ toughest matchup since losing 99-82 at Southeast Divison-leading Orlando on Feb. 2.
Milwaukee has lost five straight at Atlanta, which has been one of the league’s best home teams this season with a 22-7 record. The Hawks, though, come in having lost two of three at Philips Arena.
The Bucks should at least be competitive if they can keep up their strong defensive play. They’ve held four of their last six opponents to 88 points or less.
John Salmons(notes) continues to give the Bucks a boost since being acquired in a trade with Chicago on Feb. 18. The veteran guard had 18 points versus the Heat and is averaging 18.2 points in five games with his new club.
“He does a lot of things well,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “He can shoot the ball and put it on the floor. He passes the ball well. He’s a willing defender. He’s experienced. Having said all that, the most important thing for us is his size. We play small so much and he makes play … we just didn’t have that before.”
Salmons may be matched up at times with Joe Johnson(notes), who leads the Hawks with 21.8 points per game. He scored 27 in Atlanta’s 111-103 overtime loss to Dallas on Friday—a game the Hawks led by 15 in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta has a strong team overall, including third-year big man Al Horford(notes), but owner Michael Gearon Jr. says the team will be “very competitive” in its pursuit of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes), who was waived by Washington on Thursday.
Ilgauskas was acquired by the Wizards from Cleveland on Feb. 17 as part of a three-team trade, but never played a game for Washington and agreed to a buyout. The 7-foot-3 veteran is averaging 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Atlanta’s frontcourt should face a tough test with Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut(notes), who averaged 18.6 points in nine games prior to being held to eight versus Miami. Bogut scored only nine points in his last matchup with Atlanta, a 110-107 Milwaukee win on Jan. 31, 2009.
The Hawks won their three other matchups with the Bucks last season.