The Milwaukee Bucks have cooled off this week, but a visit from an injury-plagued opponent could help them get back in the win column.
The Bucks appear to have a good chance to end their string of seven straight losses to the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.
Milwaukee (24-21) won eight of its first 11 under interim coach Jim Boylan, but it has since sputtered offensively in back-to-back losses. After falling 104-88 to visiting Chicago on Wednesday, the Bucks were a little more competitive Friday but the result was the same.
They led for much of the first three quarters at New York before the Knicks pulled away in the final period to win 96-86. Ersan Ilyasova had a team-best 19 points, but Milwaukee totaled 13 in the fourth quarter and fell to 1-11 when shooting under 40.0 percent from the field.
“For us offensively, we just kind of hit a wall there. We couldn’t score enough points,” Boylan said. “We were searching for offense pretty much the whole second half.
“We only had 20 points in the third quarter and we’ve been a pretty good third-quarter team coming out of the locker room. But tonight for whatever reason, we just didn’t have enough.”
Ellis, who had 16 points Friday, is shooting 34.8 percent over his last four games.
Although it’s been more than two years since the Bucks last beat Orlando, this is the teams’ first meeting this season, and the Magic (14-32) have dropped eight straight and 19 of 21 overall. They played their third straight game without leading scorer Arron Afflalo and the first in a long stretch without Glen Davis on Friday, losing 97-84 at Boston.
Point guard Jameer Nelson suffered a bruised left forearm in that defeat and had to sit out the second half. Nelson, producing 14.9 points and 7.2 assists per game, said he’ll have to see how feels Saturday.
Afflalo, averaging 16.7 points, is dealing with a strained calf and his status is unknown for this game, while Davis is out for the season after breaking his left foot Wednesday at New York. The sixth-year forward was averaging career highs of 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.
“It’s part of basketball and we’ll continue to deal with it,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “It means other guys have to fill in and fill roles and we’ll keep at it.”
Three of Orlando’s top four scorers from last season’s four-game sweep of the Bucks are on other teams, and the one still around - Hedo Turkoglu - has seen limited action in three games since returning from a hand injury. The Magic’s two wins in Milwaukee in 2011-12 came by a combined eight points.
After their difficult shooting night, Ellis and Jennings should play key roles as the Bucks attempt to end their struggles against Orlando. Ellis has scored 30 points or more in three of his last four matchups with the Magic, but has yet to face them while in a Milwaukee uniform.
Jennings is 7 of 43 (16.3 percent) from 3-point range in his last six versus Orlando, but he’s 21 of 43 (48.8 percent) in his last six games overall.