The Milwaukee Bucks’ offense has been steadily improving over the last week, and it’s about to get a big lift.
Milwaukee (18-26) has been without Jennings since he had surgery to repair a fracture in his left foot following a loss to Utah on Dec. 18.
It was a big blow for the Bucks, as Jennings was averaging 17.9 points and 5.5 assists in 25 games. He had also become a staple in Milwaukee’s lineup, starting every game since being picked 10th in the 2009 draft, a string of 107 regular-season games and seven in the postseason.
The Bucks lost nine of their first 13 games after losing their point guard, but have won four of six since.
An improved offense has been the biggest reason for the turnaround.
The Bucks have reached 98 points in four of their last six games after hitting that mark four times in their previous 21 contests. They’re 15-2 when scoring at least 96, but 3-24 when they don’t.
Milwaukee set a new season high in scoring in Friday’s 116-110 overtime win at Toronto, as Corey Maggette(notes) had a season-high 29 points, Ersan Ilyasova(notes) matched a career best with 25 and Andrew Bogut(notes) scored 24. It was the Bucks’ best offensive performance since a 115-92 win in New Jersey on Jan. 8.
Against the Raptors, Maggette hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer in the final minute of overtime that bounced on the rim.
“We needed a lucky bounce,” said Bogut, who missed the first meeting with the Nets because of a virus. “We haven’t had a lucky bounce for a number of games. Teams always get them against us so it was about time we got one back.”
Before Friday’s game, coach Scott Skiles said he expects Jennings will be able to play “very limited minutes” against New Jersey.
Jennings didn’t do much against New Jersey last season, averaging 11.8 points and 4.5 assists, but the Bucks won all four meetings.
Milwaukee has outscored the Nets by an average of 21.2 points in winning six straight in the series since a 99-95 loss March 3, 2009.
New Jersey (14-33) is coming off an embarrassing 124-92 loss to Indiana on Friday, its 10th straight road defeat and 20th in 21 games.
After giving up an average of 89.0 points in winning four of their previous five games, the Nets yielded opponent season highs in points and field goal shooting (62.5 percent) against the Pacers. They allowed Indiana to reach 100 points with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
“Hopefully, when we keep getting our faces smashed in, we’ll get it,” coach Avery Johnson said. “You get your face smashed in enough, sometime, you’re going to have to learn to fight back. It’s the growing pains of this year.”
Despite the disappointing defensive effort, Brook Lopez(notes) had another big night, scoring 28 points on 12 of 17 shooting. Lopez is averaging 24.3 points on 56.5 percent shooting in his last nine games after averaging 14.3 points on 45.8 percent shooting in his previous nine.
One of Lopez’s worst games of the season came against Milwaukee, as he failed to take advantage of Bogut’s absence, finishing with five points and one rebound.