Wizards-Bucks Preview

The Associated Press

The Washington Wizards appear poised to end a five-season drought without a postseason appearance. Given the way they're playing lately, they might even climb high enough in the standings to secure home court in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington visits the struggling Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, looking for their longest road winning streak since Michael Jordan was a Wizard.

The Wizards (32-29) are currently fifth in the East and look primed for their first playoff appearance since 2008. They're 1 1/2 games behind Chicago for the fourth seed, which would grant them home-court advantage in the conference quarterfinals.

They've won seven of eight following Wednesday's 104-91 home win over Utah and have been particularly prolific on offense over the last five games, averaging 115.8 points on 50.3 percent shooting - 42.9 from 3-point range. Prior to that stretch, the Wizards averaged 99.3 points on 45.1 percent shooting.

Trevor Ariza scored 26 against the Jazz and is averaging 19.5 points over his last 10 games while going 41 of 65 from beyond the arc (63.1 percent). He had previously averaged 14.0 points on 38.3 percent 3-point shooting this season.

John Wall, a 33.2 percent shooter from distance on the season, is also 12 for 30 (40.0 percent) during the team's 7-1 stretch.

"We've been moving the ball really well as a team," said Ariza, who is 10 of 23 from deep over his last three games against the Bucks. "Rebounding on the defensive end and getting out in transition has been big for us as a whole. Not only myself, but Brad (Beal), Al (Harrington) and everybody else that shoots 3s as well."

Milwaukee has the league's worst 3-point percentage defensively, allowing opponents to shoot 38.2 percent.

The Wizards have won four straight away from home, and a victory Saturday would match the franchise's longest road winning streak since it won six in a row from Dec. 6-22, 2001, the first of Jordan's two seasons with the club.

The worst team in the league, the Bucks (12-49) suffered their fourth defeat in five games after Friday's 112-104 loss at New Orleans. They were without Ersan Ilyasova, who was suspended tor throwing a punch at Reggie Evans in Wednesday's loss to Sacramento.

Now they'll be without another player due to a similar incident. O.J. Mayo was ejected in the first quarter of Friday's contest after he was assessed with a flagrant-2 foul when he punched Greg Stiemsma in the throat, and the NBA on Saturday suspended him for this game.

"I reacted the wrong way and handled it for sure the wrong way," said Mayo, who played less than three minutes. "I want to apologize to the Bucks fan base, the city of Milwaukee and obviously New Orleans and the (fans) who came out and watched the game. It's definitely the wrong way to conduct yourself. I've got to be better and I will."

One bright spot for Milwaukee has been the play of Khris Middleton, who scored 25 against the Pelicans. He's scored 20 or more points four times in his last 13 games after doing so five times in the first 73 contests of his career. He's also shooting 51.6 percent from beyond the arc over his last 15 games.

Middleton scored a career-high 29 in a 109-105 overtime win in Washington on Dec. 6. The Wizards took the first meeting 100-92, also in overtime, at Milwaukee on Nov. 27.

Marcin Gortat is averaging 20.7 points on 74.3 percent shooting over his last three games at Milwaukee.

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