Bucks-76ers Preview

The Associated Press

The Milwaukee Bucks' current rough stretch has prevented them from improving their postseason position in the Eastern Conference.

At least they have a comfortable lead over the Philadelphia 76ers for the final playoff spot in the East.

The visiting Bucks can avoid a fourth straight loss overall and on the road while trying to sweep the season series from the 76ers for the first time in 39 years Wednesday night.

Owner of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, Milwaukee (34-35) has a 7 1/2-game lead over ninth-place Philadelphia (27-43), is within striking distance of seventh-place Boston and four games out of the fifth spot. The Bucks, however, have dropped six of eight since winning six of seven and need to get back on track if they want to avoid facing streaking Miami in the first round.

"We have a lot of work to do,'' said guard Brandon Jennings, who had 12 points and 13 assists in Sunday's 104-99 loss to Atlanta on Sunday. "We'll just see what happens.''

Two of Milwaukee's last three defeats came against the Hawks, who are sixth in the East. Monta Ellis scored 20 and Ersan Ilyasova had 19 with 10 rebounds as the Bucks looked slightly better Monday, shooting 45.7 percent after making 34.0 percent of their shots in the previous two contests. The Hawks, however, scored 23 points off 16 Milwaukee turnovers.

"We were right there, but just had some bad turnovers at the end,'' said Ilyasova, who returned after missing three games with a back injury and has averaged 21.5 points with 12.5 rebounds in his last four. "We are a good team and I know we can still make a run.''

Milwaukee might have a good chance to begin a potential run with a fourth straight win over Philadelphia and first sweep 1973-74 - which also was 76ers coach Doug Collins' rookie season. The Bucks have averaged 103.0 points and shot 48.2 percent in the season's first three meetings, including a 105-96 win at Philadelphia on Nov. 12.

The Bucks have not won consecutive games in Philadelphia since 2005-06.

Ellis has scored at least 20 points in 13 of 15 games overall, and averaged 22.0 in his last seven versus Philadelphia.

Jennings has totaled 16 points and shot 5 of 30, including 1 of 12 from 3-point range, in the last two contests. However, he's averaged 26.3 on 47.5 percent shooting against the 76ers this season. He scored 33 and went 4 of 9 from beyond the arc at Philadelphia in November.

The 76ers have won two straight at home but look to bounce back after they concluded a 1-3 road trip with a 107-91 loss at Utah on Monday. Dorell Wright scored a team-high 19 off the bench as Philadelphia shot 38.6 percent and committed 13 turnovers that the Jazz turned into 24 points.

"We got it handed to us,'' said 7-foot-1 Spencer Hawes, who is averaging 16.2 points and 11.6 boards in six games. "Not much else to say."

Philadelphia swingman Evan Turner totaled 43 points despite going 8 of 19 from the field in each of the last two meetings with Milwaukee.

He's averaged a mere 9.0 points, shot 38.2 percent and committed 20 turnovers in the last 11 overall.

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