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Bucks-Bobcats Preview

AP - Sports

While the Charlotte Bobcats appear to be playing with confidence on the road, that certainly hasn't been the case when they've been on their home floor.

The Milwaukee Bucks are simply trying to pick up a win, regardless of the venue.

The Bobcats stand a good chance at securing their second victory in eight home games Friday night against a Bucks team mired in its longest losing streak in almost 18 years.

Following a 96-72 victory in Milwaukee last Saturday, Charlotte (7-9) was hoping to get above .500 after 15 games for the first time in franchise history. Instead, the Bobcats have dropped back-to-back home games to Boston and Indiana.

They haven't been as strong defensively during their slump in Charlotte, giving up 97.9 points per game and 42.6 percent 3-point shooting while losing six of seven there.

The Bobcats, the NBA's fourth-ranked defensive team, have allowed averages of 83.6 points and 38.4 percent from the field while winning four of five on the road.

Despite holding the Pacers to 38.1 percent shooting, Charlotte let them hit 10 of 25 from beyond the arc and gave up its highest point total in nine games in Wednesday's 99-74 loss.

"Our defense is very good," first-year coach Steve Clifford insisted. "And our offense needs work, having Al (Jefferson) back obviously will help as he continues to get into a rhythm and into condition."

The Bobcats are last in the NBA with 88.4 points per game and a 40.5 field-goal percentage, but they're hoping to improve offensively behind Jefferson, who has missed most of the season with a nagging ankle injury.

Jefferson led the Bobcats with 16 points and nine rebounds Wednesday while playing in his fourth consecutive game after sitting out four straight. Dating to his time with Utah, he's averaging 20.8 points and 9.6 boards in his last five against the Bucks (2-12).

Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, the team's top two scorers, will try to bounce back after combining for 25 points while missing 26 of 32 shots against the Pacers.

After finishing at a season-low 31.3 percent from the field against the NBA's best defense, the Bobcats could find better looks against a Milwaukee team that has allowed opponents to shoot 52.6 percent in its last four games.

Though the Bucks forced overtime in two of those contests, they've lost by an average of 14.2 points during a 10-game losing streak which is their longest since a franchise-record, 15-game slide March 4-30, 1996.

"There's a lot of games in front of us and we still have a chance to turn this thing around," said Ersan Ilyasova, who had five of Milwaukee's 24 turnovers in a 100-92 overtime loss to Washington on Wednesday.

O.J. Mayo hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left in regulation, but the Bucks were outscored 13-5 in overtime. Mayo scored 21 after a four-game slump in which he averaged 6.8 points on 9-of-31 shooting, including a season-low four points against Charlotte.

Khris Middleton had a career-high 20 points in that contest, and he's totaled 47 on 19-of-33 shooting in his last three games. The second-year forward has been a bright spot for Milwaukee, which has averaged a league-low 87.2 points since its skid began.

The Bobcats have won seven of eight against the Bucks in Charlotte.

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