It's been a rare luxury to have three consecutive days off during this condensed NBA season. The Milwaukee Bucks' layoff may have come at the perfect time to gear up for one final, frantic postseason push.
The Bucks begin a stretch of six games in nine days to close the regular season Wednesday night against the host Washington Wizards.
Trying close a 1 1/2-game gap behind eighth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee (29-31) likely can't afford to slip up against a lesser opponent.
After facing a Wizards team which is second from the bottom in the East, the Bucks have a challenge at third-place Indiana, but then they return home to play New Jersey and Toronto before what could be a crucial showdown with the 76ers.
"Just take it one game at a time, and see where we're at at the end," center Drew Gooden said. "That's all that's in our control right now."
The three days off may have been especially valuable for Gooden, who has recently dealt with a sore back. He had 26 points in a 113-97 win Friday at Detroit but struggled the next night against Roy Hibbert and the Pacers, scoring seven on 2-of-10 shooting in a 105-99 defeat.
The Bucks cut an 11-point deficit to one in the second half versus Indiana but couldn't get over the hump, going 1 for 7 from the field in the final four minutes.
"If you want to be a really good team, you have to be able to take a timeout, move the ball up, draw up a play that you've worked on countless times and everybody go out there and do it," coach Scott Skiles said. "If you have two or three guys that don't go out there and do it, you're not going to be a good team and we have struggled with that all year long."
Having played 17 games together since Milwaukee acquired Ellis from Golden State last month, the two guards have shown signs of clicking following an inconsistent start. In the last seven contests, Ellis is averaging 22.0 points and Jennings 18.4 while combining for 12.9 assists per game.
Ellis said he's not interested in keeping track of the 76ers' results.
"I don't look at nothing, I just worry about what we gotta do," he said. "Only thing we gotta do is do our work, play out the rest of these six games and see what happens."
It would be reasonable to expect that stretch to start with a victory.
Not only have the Bucks won eight of nine on the road, but they've averaged 111.0 points on 49.8 percent shooting while winning the first three meetings with the Wizards this season, including a 112-98 victory at the Verizon Center on April 2.
Washington (15-46), though, is coming off a surprising 87-84 win at East-leading Chicago on Monday, albeit against a Bulls team missing Derrick Rose and Luol Deng.
Kevin Seraphin led Washington with 21 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. The second-year center has averaged 16.2 points on 52.5 percent shooting while starting the last 10 games.
"He's continuing to blossom a little bit," coach Randy Wittman said. "I gotta stay on his rear end, though. Not let him get satisfied."
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