On the verge of their longest winning streak in two years, the Milwaukee Bucks appear to have hit their stride.
They could become even more formidable with their new acquisitions in uniform.
With Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh hoping to suit up versus their former team, the Bucks kick off a two-game road swing against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night seeking a fifth consecutive victory.
In an attempt to bolster its postseason push, Milwaukee (19-24) sent Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to Golden State (18-22) on Tuesday in exchange for Ellis, Udoh and Kwame Brown. While Bogut (fractured ankle) and Brown (chest) are both uncertain to return this season, the Warriors traded Jackson to San Antonio on Thursday for Richard Jefferson.
Ellis and Udoh, meanwhile, can't play for the Bucks until Bogut completes his physical with the Warriors, and were held out of Wednesday's 115-105 win over Cleveland. Despite being short-handed, Milwaukee was able to pull away behind Drew Gooden's 15 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists and a combined 43 points from Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Dunleavy.
The Bucks' lone loss in their past six games was a 106-104 defeat to NBA-best Chicago on March 7, and they've since won four in a row to move into a tie with New York for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They haven't won five straight since a six-game run March 3-14, 2010.
Adding the speedy Ellis and his 21.9 points per game to the mix could further boost the Bucks' playoff hopes.
"Hopefully, we might even get a little bit quicker," coach Scott Skiles said. "Certainly Monta's quick - very quick. And hopefully we'll continue to kind of play in that style and move the ball around and cause people problems."
Udoh can cause problems at the defensive end, ranking among the league leaders with 1.7 blocks per game.
The Warriors did well in their first game without Ellis, winning 115-89 at Sacramento on Tuesday, but the next night they lost 105-103 to Boston. After Kevin Garnett hit the go-ahead jumper with 5.1 seconds remaining, Nate Robinson missed a 3-point attempt with a second left.
Robinson made his second consecutive start in place of Stephen Curry (sprained ankle), finishing with 20 points and a season-high 11 assists. Rookie Klay Thompson scored a season-best 26 and is expected to remain in the starting five with Ellis no longer around.
"We can't give up easy buckets because we don't have Monta to bail us out and score 40 a game," said Thompson, averaging 16.3 points over the last six games. "We just have to band together. We have done a great job at that the past two games and we have to do that Friday as well."
While Golden State's three-game win streak came to an end Wednesday, coach Mark Jackson was pleased with his team's effort. The Warriors shot 52.6 percent from the field and outscored the Celtics 60-42 in the paint.
"I could not be more satisfied with the energy, the effort, the commitment from my guys," Jackson said. "Now, we're not jumping up and down, but we certainly are not discouraged by what took place tonight. This is the type of performance to build on."
His team has played well on both ends of the court in the past four games, shooting a combined 52.1 percent from the field and holding opponents to an average of 93.5 points.
The Warriors had dropped four straight in this series before posting a 100-94 win Feb. 3, 2011, in the most recent meeting.
Curry is expected to be held out for the sixth time in 11 games.
- Monta Ellis
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Andrew Bogut
- Golden State
- the Bucks
- the Warriors