Wizards-Bucks Preview


Despite a rough first half, the Milwaukee Bucks are still in the playoff hunt.

It would take a remarkable second-half run for the lowly Washington Wizards to be in that same position.

The Bucks and Wizards return from the All-Star break on Tuesday night when Milwaukee tries to avoid its first seven-game losing streak at the Bradley Center in 12 years.

Losers of nine of 12 heading into the break, including a 110-91 defeat at Chicago on Wednesday in their last game, the Bucks (13-20) trail eighth-place Boston by just 2 1/2 games in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Still, the team knows it must improve over the final 33 games to make a second postseason appearance in six seasons.

"I'm not going to lie,'' Brandon Jennings, the team leader with 18.4 points per game and 5.2 assists, said following Wednesday's loss. "I'm frustrated. I want to win. We all want to win.''

If that's going to happen, the Bucks need Jennings to avoid more shooting slumps. He's back on track with 42 points in the last two contests, but he averaged 10.6 on 30.2 percent shooting during a five-game stretch from Feb. 4-13.

Jennings, though, hit 8 of 15 shots and scored a team-high 22 points in a 102-81 home win over Washington on Dec. 30.

The Bucks have won three straight and six of seven at home against the Wizards.

Milwaukee, though, is winless at the Bradley Center since opening 7-2 at home. The team hasn't lost seven straight to visiting opponents since Feb. 5-25, 2000.

The Wizards (7-26) will have to improve on the defensive end or they could leave Milwaukee with a fourth consecutive road loss.

Washington has given up 108.8 points per game while losing four straight overall.

"Until our team is committed to playing winning basketball - until they're committed to doing that - we're going to be like this team was tonight,'' coach Randy Wittman said following Wednesday's 115-107 loss to Sacramento.

As frustrating as its been for Wittman to watch his squad stumble into 14th place in the East, not all the news is bad for the Wizards.

Reserve guard Jordan Crawford is averaging a team-best 21.4 points on 54.1 percent shooting in the last five games, while John Wall has totaled 20.4 points, 8.6 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game during that stretch.

"As long as we keep doing what we're supposed to and getting better, and working and watching film, we can be something special," Wall said Friday after scoring 17 points with eight assists and six boards in the Rising Stars Challenge as part of All-Star weekend in Orlando. "But we've still got a lot to prove in this league."

Wall hasn't shown much in four career games against Milwaukee, averaging 10.3 points and missing 71.7 percent of his 46 field-goal attempts. He was 1 for 9 from the field Dec. 30, finishing with six points and seven assists.

Crawford scored a team-high 24 points in that contest.

The Bucks could have Drew Gooden back in the lineup after he missed the last four games with a sprained right wrist.

Ersan Ilyasova is averaging 18.3 points and 13.5 boards in Gooden's absence. Ilyasova had 16 points and seven rebounds on Dec. 30.

Milwaukee has won nine of 12 in this series.