Brooklyn (22-44) at Milwaukee (26-41)

By ALAN FERGUSON, STATS Writer Friday, Mar 18, 2011 Tipoff: 8:30 pm EDT Fri Mar 18, 2011

The Milwaukee Bucks are going the wrong way in their hunt for consecutive postseason berths. A matchup with the New Jersey Nets might help them start heading in the right direction.

Milwaukee will try to end a three-game slide by winning its eighth in a row over visiting New Jersey on Friday night.

The Bucks (26-41) are 2 1/2 games behind eighth-place Indiana in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, but haven’t helped themselves over the past three games by averaging 76.7 points and shooting 38.9 percent.

Milwaukee managed to rally from a five-point deficit in the final 30 seconds Wednesday against Orlando but fell 93-89 in overtime. Brandon Jennings(notes) finished with a team-best 23 points, and John Salmons(notes) scored 20 of his 22 after halftime.

“This is a game we really wanted to have to start this (four-game) homestand,” forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute(notes) said. “We got to come out on Friday with the same intensity, if not better. We definitely need to have these next three games if we still want to be in the running for the eighth spot.”

The Bucks might have Andrew Bogut(notes) back in the lineup after he sat out Wednesday’s loss with a migraine. They’re also playing without Drew Gooden(notes) (left foot) and Ersan Ilyasova(notes) (concussion), while Michael Redd(notes) (left knee) might return next week.

Bogut’s return could be key. He had 17 points and 18 rebounds in a 91-81 home win over New Jersey (22-44) on Jan. 29, when Carlos Delfino(notes) finished with 21 points to lead Milwaukee’s starters, who all scored in double figures.

The Bucks didn’t need Bogut’s help three weeks earlier, when their center was out sick but they scored a then-season high in a 115-92 rout at New Jersey. Chris Douglas-Roberts(notes) had a team-high 24 points off the bench for Milwaukee, which shot a season-best 58.3 percent.

This time, the Nets have recent acquisition Deron Williams(notes), who scored 22 points in each of his two matchups with Milwaukee this season while with Utah. The All-Star point guard, however, is dealing with a wrist injury and is coming off one of the worst shooting performances of his career, a 1-for-12 effort Thursday in an 84-73 home loss to Chicago.

New Jersey shot 34.9 percent as a team as its five-game winning streak came to an end. Brook Lopez(notes) had 22 points in the loss, his eighth consecutive game with at least 20.

“We could have played a lot better and shot a lot better; 35 percent from the field is tough to win,” Williams said.

Lopez scored a team-high 26 points in the Jan. 29 loss at Milwaukee.

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